Spotlight: Judging Panel for the British Conveyancing Awards

In a series of Supporter in Focus pieces, we are thrilled to introduce our Judges of The British Conveyancing Awards 2021.

Alongside headline sponsor, Lawyer Checker, we look forward to recognising individuals, teams and companies who have gone above and beyond to support buyers and sellers to move home during the most challenging year the conveyancing industry has perhaps ever seen.

Entries are still open for you to submit your nominations.

The awards couldn’t take place without the hard task of judging and shortlisting the entries. It’s not a task many would take on, but we are extremely grateful to those that have. Over the next week we will find out a little more about our judging panel.

Today our spotlight is shining on Rob Hailstone, Alex Holt and Sarah Keegan

We’re delighted to have Rob Hailstone, founder of the Bold Legal Group, on the judging panel.

What initially sparked your interest in the sector?

45 years working in it

What advice would you give to someone considering a career in the conveyancing sector?

Try to get some work experience in a busy conveyancing office first. The job is like no other I know of.

What improvements do you think could be made to the conveyancing sector?

Higher fees, better pay, more appreciation of the work involved.

As a Judge of the awards, what will you be looking for to identify that winning entry?

Determination, diplomacy, client empathy and thoroughness

How important do you think it is to recognise achievement in the sector?

Very! Pay isn’t always great; hours can be long and uneducated criticism can be hurtful. Recognition from the sector is like a big pat on the back.

What are the most prominent challenges the industry is facing at the moment?

Not having control of outside forces that slow the process down, with the conveyancer being the focal point for all delays.

What innovations have you seen in the sector over the past 18 months?

Not much that makes the process, quicker, less stressful and smoother.

We’re delighted to have Alex Holt, Director of Business Development at The Cashroom, joining us for The British Conveyancing Awards. 

The Cashroom provide outsourced finance functions to over 200 law firms throughout the country. We help them reduce risk, create efficiency and ensure compliance.

What initially sparked your interest in the sector?

I started out as a lawyer and was a partner at Hill Dickinson and at Silverbeck Rymer, so of course had to serve my time during my articles (yes, I’m that old) in the property teams. Later when I’d left practice I worked within a global IT outsourcer and developed products to service conveyancing firms. For the last six years with The Cashroom, the conveyancing sector has become increasingly of interest, since the secure, efficient movement of money is so important in that sector, and it is a task in which The Cashroom specialises.

What advice would you give to someone considering a career in the conveyancing sector?

From working with some of our clients, I’d say that a great first step is finding a firm that is forward thinking. By that I mean, they embrace technology, but at the same time they should be very focused on client service. If you find a firm like that to begin your career, you will certainly develop the right core principles.

What improvements do you think could be made to the conveyancing sector?

Everyone should outsource their cashiering to The Cashroom!

As a Judge of the awards, what will you be looking for to identify that winning entry?

First tip- answer the question! Make sure your response covers in a structured way all the things that the topic demands. Once over that hurdle, I’m looking for real innovation and quality.

How important do you think it is to recognise achievement in the sector?

This year more than ever the sector has faced challenges and stress and has done it incredibly well. I think recognition of this is wonderful, and these awards are the perfect way to do it.

What are the most prominent challenges the industry is facing at the moment?

For this sector, I’d say burnout is a risk. The workloads and pressure are relentless. The challenge is to push through the volume of work while maintaining quality of service, and an eye on the future.

What innovations have you seen in the sector over the past 18 months?

Increasing use of communication tools to augment case management.

We’re delighted to have Sarah Keegan, co-founder of The CS Partnership on The British Conveyancing Awards judging panel.

First of all, tell us who you are and what you do.

I am a Legal Engineer and Property Lawyer.  I co-founded The CS Partnership with my colleague Clair Payne in 2012 to help legal departments look at the technology that they have and make sure it works for them.  We write new workflows or tweak existing software; advise departments and firms on what Practice Management Systems or Case Management Systems they should buy; train case handlers on their systems and how to avoid risk within their cases, and I coach Heads of Department on how to get the best out of their staff and increase their profits.

What initially sparked your interest in the sector?

I loved property law from the moment I studied Land Law at law school. Property has its own language, and it just made sense to me.  I also love people – and let’s face it – conveyancing is all about the people! It meant I got paid for talking a lot…

What advice would you give to someone considering a career in the conveyancing sector?

Ignore whether you think there is a downturn coming in the market and go ahead and do it.  I qualified into property in a recession, and the shortage of conveyancers means you will always find work.  You get to deal with people, as well as interesting law and complex cases.  And now more than ever, you will use cutting edge technology and bring that technology into how you deliver a bespoke service to your clients.

What improvements do you think could be made to the conveyancing sector?

I see a lot of the new technology as it is coming to market, and sometimes I get involved as it is being built – and it is very exciting.  But I read an article recently on “design thinking” – which is an approach that puts user experience at the centre of what the technology is to be used for.  It got me thinking about how confused clients often still get when they are faced with the conveyancing process, and what work we can do to put ourselves in their shoes and look at their journey.  We’ve all certainly tried that over the years – of course we have.  But if these past months have shown us anything it is that there are real issues on the understanding (or lack of it) from the clients, and possibly the professionals around conveyancers, about what we do and why we have to do it.  I am not saying I have the silver bullet for solving this issue, but it’s currently at the forefront of my thinking.

As a Judge of the awards, what will you be looking for to identify that winning entry?

This is a hard question – I think everyone needs an award this year!

How important do you think it is to recognise achievement in the sector?

Hugely important. It is an area of law that most people need at some point in their lives but is taken for granted.  I know what it is like to work so hard that you are physically exhausted but feel like you receive nothing but negative comments.  I love the idea of these inaugural awards recognising the industry.

What are the most prominent challenges the industry is facing at the moment?

We are in the step change of one foot in the past, and one in the future with regards to our systems and procedures, in a world that is massively changing the way we all behave and communicate.  Dealing with that change is like buying a lovely Victorian house that needs complete renovation.  We know the foundations are strong and the house has been built to last, but we have to go through the awful bit of actually doing the renovations.  It can be exhausting and feel like it’s never ending – but it will be worth it.

What innovations have you seen in the sector over the past 18 months?

Facial recognition software, products incorporating open banking, and blockchain are three areas I have seen and am working with.   They are amazing new technologies that are transforming elements of our processes.

Thank you to Rob, Alex and Sarah for their support for The British Conveyancing Awards 2021.

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