40 years in conveyancing

Forty years ago this week as a spotty 16 year old I first began working in the legal profession. In fact I still have the letter from J. W. Ward & Son, Solicitors, Bristol, offering me the job of Trainee Legal Executive at the grand salary of £10.50 per week.

On the whole, I have enjoyed my time, 30 years at the ‘coal face’ of residential conveyancing, a few years involved in Hips (a massive opportunity (lost) to go some way to producing something close to an exchange ready pack) and the last five years building the Bold Legal Group (BLG). A national network of over 250 law firms all of whom carry out residential conveyancing.

Back in the 70s and 80s, with very little internet, much less red tape and bureaucracy and probably realistic client expectations, conveyancing was enjoyable and profitable. Great estate agent contacts, weekly updates over a beer or two, personal exchanges and completions. Working relationships with Building Society managers that meant you could walk to the local office and pick up the mortgage advance cheque a few days before completion. Fewer legal indemnity insurance policies because you could actually use your experience and knowledge to either put a legal problem right or consider it nothing more than a paper based irritation and simply ignore it.

Fast forward 30 odd years and In my relatively new role as founder of the BLG I deal with conveyancers, lenders, agents, brokers, insurance companies, search providers, the Law Society and the Solicitors Regulatory Authority and occasionally, members of the public etc. Pretty much every one of them would agree that the home buying and selling process is no better, in fact it is worse than it was all those years ago. It is a constant merry go round of the ‘blame game’, played between all of the parties involved.

Why are we in this position and what can be done about it?

My views are that whilst some systems and processes have improved, the legal aspect of the conveyancing process and land/property law in particular has not changed. That is a bit like putting the engine from a 1920s Ford Model T in a 21st Century Ferrari chassis. The benefits are minimal if not actually damaging to the new chassis. We need a new engine!

However, nothing can be done unless the will to improve is there. As that is unlikely to come from the Government, it has to come from the stakeholders involved. But it would appear that they won’t sit around the table together to make sure improvements happen, possibly because they all feel they have too much to lose when in fact an overall improvement in the whole process would make everyone’s lives less stressful, more enjoyable and probably more profitable.

Now in my mid-fifties, and finally realising I will never accomplish anything that will be recorded in the annuals of time for ever (world peace or a cure for cancer etc.) I do not want to go to my grave with the home buying and selling process getting worse, not better.

It is time for those that have the time, initiative and the will to get together and find a better way forward to do just that, get together, in order to make a difference. For my part, I will get involved as much, or as little as is needed.

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