Diary of a High Street Conveyancer; 19th July 2021

Thinking back over the last few weeks, I feel that now is the time for estate  agents and conveyancers to form a better working relationship. You will be nodding your head in agreement with me – but I think that is far easier to say than to do.

Think back thirty years – if you are as old in the tooth as me! Not only did we do personal completions (What? I hear the young conveyancers cry – what is a personal completion? What do you mean that you went to the seller’s solicitors office with the banker’s draft, had a piece of Madeira cake and then went back to your own office with the deeds?) but there was a very different type of relationship between solicitors and estate agents.

We talked to each other and there was more respect. Agents would recommend the local solicitor who they knew would do a good job, and the solicitor would then recommend the agent when there was a probate sale. And there would be lunches and perhaps a bottle of wine at Christmas.

So very different to what happens today.

Now there is the referral fee arrangement and no matter how good you are as a conveyancing solicitor, if you do not want to be on a panel management scheme and pay a referral fee, you will not get recommended by a local agent. Yes, there are a few old fashioned type relationships where no money changes hands, but I am sure that is very rare.

And this is what has led to a breakdown in the relationship between estate agents and solicitors.

As the older generation retire, not many will remember how it was done in the old days. Today it feels like the solicitor has to pay a fee to the agent to get the job. If you don’t pay, then you don’t get recommended.

The last few months have shown that the volume of emails chasing today is unmanageable. Managing expectations is challenging. If the  email is not answered within five seconds you get a chasing call to find out why not.

But here’s “the rub.” Why would a solicitor give an update to an agent who did not recommend them? Who might have preferred from a financial point of view the buyer or seller instructed another firm? Even if the solicitor is better than the one paying the referral fee?  Why would we waste our time on updating an agent who, if they had the chance, would have asked our client to go elsewhere ?

And this is the reason why the  relationship has broken down.  There is very little respect.

Why would a solicitor respect an agent who would have sent the client elsewhere for a fee? Why would we want to help? Those of us who do not pay referral fees value our clients and value the relationships we have with others. We want a return to the old days, where there was respect, when there was time for a long lunch, and when a referral fee was not the most important and determining factor.

Throughout all of this, the ones who ultimately suffer are the clients. I think that many would be horrified if they knew how the legal part of their house sale was sold to the highest bidder…


This is written by a real high street conveyancer who wishes to remain anonymous. Read more in Today’s Conveyancer every week.

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