Firms are taking on more work than they can handle says LFS Judge Richard Powell
However Richard also says volumes in his region, the North West of England, are still around a third less than they were at their pre-recession peak. He spoke to Jane Common about what he’s looking forward to as par tof being a judge at this year’s Law Firm Services Awards – particularly the mystery shopping.
This is your first year as a judge at LFS, Richard?
“I’ve been connected to LFS for as long as it’s existed as we helped them design their original referral system – it was based on our model at Ryder & Dutton, in fact. Richard Mathias has asked me to be a judge at the awards before but it’s never fitted in so yes, this is my first year. And I’m really looking forward to being involved.”
What’s your background?
“I have been in the business for 35 years I guess – I started in the very late 1970s. I’ve been with Ryder & Dutton for 30 years and a partner since 1989. I’m a chartered surveyor by profession but in about 1985 I took the decision to concentrate on estate agency work, which I preferred. Of course, the world has changed in that time and my role has changed too – in the early days I’d be out and about valuing houses but now I spend my time running the business. We don’t have an MD as such here at Ryder & Dutton but if we did it would be me. There are six directors and 190 staff overall across 19 sites. Funny enough in 2007, just before the crash, we employed nearly 250 people but now, even though we have less staff, we’re a bigger business. That’s come through reorganising and streamlining to survive the recession and, ironically, it’s improved our way of working. Every cloud!”
And Ryder & Dutton is an award winning business itself?
“Yes, we were named the best large estate agency in the country at the Negotiator Awards in both 2014 and 2015.”
So having won awards you know the importance of such accolades?
“Indeed, winning awards has become an important part of our marketing plan in terms of promotion. It raises the profile of the business and opportunities come that might not have without the stamp of authority an award brings. Winning is good for staff morale too – it makes people stay with us because they’re proud of where they work.”
Which LFS award are you judging?
“The Overall Conveyancing Firm of the Year I believe – we have to ring up lots of firms and do some mystery shopping to judge the service they provide. That sounds quite good fun – I’m looking forward to it.”
What makes a good conveyancer from an estate agent’s point of view?
“We’re looking for conveyancers who are efficient and on the ball – who respond quickly to queries; keep the clients and ourselves up to date; and advise us of delays or problems. I appreciate conveyancing firms which upgrade to online case management systems so we don’t have to ring and nag all the time – and conveyancers who actually update the systems at every stage of the process.
“Here at Ryder & Dutton we have a panel of ten conveyancing firms we’ve worked with for a decade and we haven’t seen reason to change that. So we’re comfortable with them. And probably out of that ten we have four we do a lot of business with – they’re consistent; understand what’s necessary and agree protocols between themselves to speed up the process.
“The best conveyancing lawyers, in my opinion, are in firms that have dedicated conveyancing departments or working for specialist conveyancing firms – that Jack of all trades motto definitely applies when it comes to law.
“And another problem we come across is law firms taking on more work than they can actually cope with. And while I understand that during the recession a lot of conveyancing people left the industry so now the market is busy again some firms are struggling to keep up that can cause frustration.”
How’s the market in the North West?
“Improving but nothing like it’s purported to be in the south of the country. One of our problems here is that a lot of house values are still below 2007 values. If someone came to our Oldham office today wanting to buy 100 houses at £75,000 or less we’d have them on our books. I do think the market’s picking up, particularly for good family homes, but it’s slow – we’re still waiting for that boom. Volumes are probably about 60-70% of what they were at the peak of the market pre-recession.”
If you could give one piece of advice to conveyancers to make your life easier as an estate agent what would it be?
“Communicate more effectively – that would be it.”
Ryder & Dutton are at www.ryder-dutton.co.uk