Feast to Famine. Can this be avoided?

The past 15 years or so have seen dramatic changes to the conveyancing arena. The economic climate and how it impacts upon property transactions is impossible to control and challenging to predict, but the changes that impact conveyancing departments always appear to come as a shock. But why is that?

There was a time when conveyancing departments had more resources, people keeping an eye open for opportunities, looking at the way that the business could or should develop, but that has mostly disappeared as everyone that remains in the business is required to work on the volume and get cases completed.  This puts firms in vulnerable positions that mean when they are busy, they are not planning for the quiet times and when it is quiet, they will be tempted by any work that is offered to them; the panel manager suddenly looks attractive; not ideal.

So even during the busy times it is worth either affording some time to look at the health of your business or consulting with others who can do it for you. I have worked with numerous firms over the years who have been “too busy” to ask for profitable business from the agent ‘literally’ next door, because they have been working on demanding, low profit work, from a volume source (that can be turned down if not off). No one wishes to break ties with panel managers as they are a useful resource to help keep pipelines filled, but it is a dangerous position to be in when your business is full of that work with little else from other sources.

Over the years there have been numerous models suggesting that 75-85% of your capacity should come from direct relationships that you control, and the rest can be topped up from volume sources. Some firms have used the volume sources as a training bed for new employees to see how they perform to not damage the direct brand with established regional relationships, whilst others have seen it as a useful tap to keep everyone working to a capacity.

Conveyancers should put themselves first though. You should avoid being the whipping boy (for want of a better term) as with most property transactional relationships it is always easy to blame the conveyancer for everything that goes wrong.

Building relationships with local and regional businesses directly has got to be the place to focus most of your business development efforts, but not by just being the fulfilment capability, but instead a true partnership with aligned directions and goals. Conveyancers and agents must look to develop better teamwork and heightened communication to build something successful.

When it comes to the volume introducers, firms must work smarter. I don’t mean be better at conveyancing, I mean, see those introductions as opportunities to win clients for more than just the transaction posed.  Winning a client from a volume introducer can be a true gift. If you are working smarter, you will only pay once to win that client as you become the memorable brand and the ‘go-to’ for all things legal.

Property is the catalyst for many legal relationships. There is the obvious buying and selling of property, but also divorce, investment and death. These involve other departments, so cross-selling post completion is something that must not be forgotten about. But how do you do that and with what?

You may, as part of your client’s journey, suggest that they engage with you across your social media platforms, which is great. They are, or can be, quite impersonal and lack value over time leading historic clients to eventually disengage and become free for others to pick up.  We have found that leaving a client with a branded digital logbook for their home that gives them somewhere to store all their property related paperwork, keeps them updated with property transactions in their locality and is updated with property market pricing trends and how their own home is affected, retains significant engagement. Within the logbook firms can show their next steps for engagement should clients need any further legal advice or support, whether it is property related or not.  These digital logbook environments will prove to be a useful asset for your clients as well as a great brand awareness tool for your business.

If your business invests a little time in making the most out of every opportunity that is presented to it and focuses on brand awareness and brand engagement solutions, you stand a chance of controlling your own destiny. Building valuable relationships with regional businesses and becoming a valuable part of a collaborative solution will also significantly help. It is always worth remembering that only 5% of the marketplace chooses a conveyancer based upon price alone, so it is time to stop undervaluing your services and start building profit centres delivering excellent service, rather than being too busy and beaten up to continue to deliver within an industry that you were once passionate about.

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