Diary of a high street conveyancer: 22nd January 2024

One of the things that bothers me is what we should do when we receive a contract pack which is not correct and perhaps has missing documents and what we should do when we receive enquiries which are standard and clearly not CQS-compliant.

It is clear from what I read that the quality of conveyancing is perhaps not as good as it once was but how can we make it better? Many solicitors of my generation learnt from overhearing others in the office talk about transactions and how issues could be resolved but does this happen as often as it once did? Working from home means that many work completely alone and gone are the opportunities to learn by osmosis (for want of a better word). So when we receive that contract package with errors, how should we deal with it?

I had three contract packages (and I use the word “packages” in a loose sense as they were emailed to me) this week which contained what I would see as school boy errors. The names of the sellers in the contract were not the same as those in the register; a seller selling as Executor was stated to be selling with full title guarantee; and there were two titles, freehold and leasehold, and only one was referred to in the contract and only one set of Office Copy Entries were provided when it was clear from those Office Copy Entries that there were two titles – just a few examples.  So, how should we deal with this? Should we throw our computer keyboards in the air and cry, what is this rubbish, do you not know the basics of conveyancing? Or should we write to the sellers’ solicitor and point out the errors? After doing the first, I would usually then just send enquiries which consisted of pointing out the errors and asking for an amended contract and the correct documents.

But this week, I decided I was going to adopt a slightly different approach . And guess what I did? I picked up that gadget which has been in existence for many years and did something very old-fashioned. I made a telephone call. I called the lawyer (whether that be a fee earner, case handler, conveyancer or whoever) with a view to having a chat and just running over the errors and discussing them in a mentoring sort of way with the person who had drafted the contract and sent the documents. My thought was that if no one was checking the contract and documents before they were sent to me, how was the person preparing them going to learn unless someone spoke with them about it. I was not going to be the know all; I just thought it might help that lawyer understand what could be done to avoid making a similar mistake on another sale, because let’s be honest,  such errors waste time and money.

I was therefore a little taken aback when I was told that the lawyer did not take calls and could not talk with me.  I did not know what to do but had to write the letter and point out the errors and all I can do is hope that the lawyer does not make the same errors on another contract.

Let’s talk to each other – let’s point out the little errors rather than the estate agents making more of them than is needed which just ultimately leads conveyancers to be battling while the astounded client watches on and wonders what is happening and why they can’t just move house.

It’s good to talk – and who knows? We may learn from something from each other

4 Responses

  1. It appears the next generation have forgotten that the telephone is also a piece of technology. @SecretConveyancer, have you ever thought the reason you may not have got through is because the other side is actually manned by robots (not yet programmed with AI) but shhhh no one wants to say they are doing this because actually they are underpaid conveyancers who are just there to get paid at the end of the month and do no more.

    If they had actually used the Contract tool on Info Track (not difficult) it would have pulled across the correct information. Just a thought.

  2. An immense source of frustration and I sympathise. I’ve had numerous occasions when I try to speak to people on the phone, have a full conversation and then am asked to email them. Was the person even listening? Too many people are working from home IMO and treat the phone as an optional extra. People simply don’t answer calls anymore.
    Contract packs missing protocol documents etc. are seemingly common place now and are merely sent out to get it off the desk and tell the agent it’s been done. Factory firms seem to like to send out the title and plan so that we start searches. I prefer to look at a contract pack for obvious issues before spending client money. I’m seeing more and more firms not understanding protocol. You are supposed to look at the title and make updates as necessary. Update names, addresses, death of proprietors etc. Sheer laziness and ignorance when firms come back and say no. How did we all cope two years ago when we were actually busy and demand overtook supply?

  3. If they “do no take calls” then I’d be asking to instead speak to whichever supervisor that does.

    Clear competence issues which invariably will delay the transaction in the weeks to come

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