West Midlands law firm, QualitySolicitors Talbots (QST) has an annual turnover of £7.5 million and around one third of this is attributed to residential property. With 95% of their instruction coming from across the region, this makes the firm one of the most well-placed property specialists to analyse the current state of the property market in the area.
Martyn Morgan, a director and Head of Residential Property at QST, says the firm is also CQS accredited, a strategy put in place from the outset. The firm sees great value in the accreditation, as it distinguishes them from other service providers in the market in the eyes of the lenders.
Over the last two years the firm has not only been involved in the acquisition of one practice, but has also opened a new branch office, has secured the lateral hire of a niche division dealing with property buyers from major developers of new build, and acquired some panel work.
The department has since seen a growth of 28% in new starts, compared with the same period last year. Though bizarrely, there was a downturn in new instructions for the month of August, which was not similarly reflected in the previous year.
QST puts this growth partly down to its own strategy, and also as a result of a return in confidence in the market. This could be attributed to the government’s Help to Buy scheme and also the initiatives available through the QualitySolicitors brand.
This year, QST has invested in a new case management system to assist with growth and streamlining of processes. Mr Morgan stated, "We are keen to retain the expertise of experienced conveyancers who really understand the needs of clients and communication. However we are reviewing how we operate and ensuring that we have the right people doing the right tasks.
"Our biggest challenge this year has been meeting the demands of our clients and introducers and dealing with a high volume of telephone calls. We are having a real push to put in place processes that enable our lawyers to pre-empt those calls and be more pro-active. This can only happen if we lighten the load and take away from them the time-consuming aspects of a transaction that can be done by others.
"I do not believe it is just a challenge in conveyancing, nor indeed for lawyers generally. I get the impression from other service providers that they encounter similar constraints and maybe Joe Public is just becoming increasingly demanding.
"It is widely known within the industry that there has been a shortage of good quality conveyancers following the recession, something also experienced with specialist contractors in the building industry and other comparable services. This has resulted in a problem of staff retention for top quality firms.
"We are continuously challenged by recruitment agencies and head hunters attempting to poach our staff, with promises of major salary boosts when placed within conveyancing firms. With the continuous downward pressure on fees, it is clear that such salaries will not be sustainable.
"The firm believes that there are many more opportunities, as other firms cease to cope with the modern demands of conveyancing. Lenders panels are reducing and introducers see the value of recommending those firms that simply “get it”. Although it is hard work, we view the future with confidence."