Fee Earners not coping – an alternative view

Conveyancing fee earners are all over social media rightly complaining about the stress they are under and I thought a discussion about what’s happening and how to solve it might be worthwhile.

It is not just about the stress it’s also about the errors and risks. The #AnonymousConveyancer on Twitter posted this week “I’ve screwed something up, it was something I should never have been doing in the first place. But there’s never any time and it’s just push push push”.

I feel for fee earners who have no control other than to leave the profession and from my linked-in contacts, I can see fee earners moving firms to escape bad practice or just leaving the profession. We are losing talent. That can’t be good.

Job adverts for conveyancing are running at the highest levels since I started monitoring them this time last year. With over 1850 conveyancing jobs being advertised is tens of thousands of cases depending on what you assume that they complete. Let’s pick a number out of the air which for many will be low and for some high, let’s say 22 completions per month. 1850 jobs doing 22 completions a month is just over 40,000 case capacity.

With about 163,000 purchases according to HMRC in March with I assume a similar number of sales, it means that demand exceeds supply by about 12-15%.

That probably means most conveyancers are doing 6 or 7 day weeks. At the very least long hours to cope. This isn’t sustainable and we are seeing the exodus of good people not wanting to do this work anymore.

The problem isn’t just having more work than we can hope with the problem is also that transactions are more complex, need more hand-holding, and are generally more difficult in such a stressful market.

In most markets when demand exceeds supply, prices rise. There is some evidence of this in this market.

My suggestion, to keep your staff and keep them happy, is to be brave and double your prices.

Let’s look at a worked example:

  • Cases completed per month: 25
  • Cost charged per case £650
  • TOTAL: £15,000 revenue per month.

If you were to double your prices:

  • Cases completed per month: 12
  • Cost charged per case £1300
  • TOTAL: £15,600 revenue per month.

You then need to consider your tactics and look at your operating model and how many cases you need and what your fall-through rate is.

For example, we need £50000 per month revenue to hit our budget. On the first day in the month start high to start with. You could quote double your normal rate, some will walk away, but some will stay you only need 1 in 2 to be at your normal income rate. Start of week two assess your strike rate and either reduce or increase your prices based on what work you have won.

Or do it the other way around. When you know your fee earners are full with work, double your prices until their pipelines fall.

It’s all about your target operating model. If you don’t think in these terms your staff will walk away because they will be overworked or you won’t be profitable.

What about referred work?

If you let others control your price in favour of their volume you are always going to have mistakes, stress, high staff turnover in busy markets. In quiet markets they are great but with so many leaving the profession and capacity so far below demand that problem seems a long way away.

Any questions please do get in touch [email protected]

Written by Chris is the CEO of Lawyer Checker, a solicitor, and has worked in this profession for a very long time.

3 Comments

  • test

    The only issue with adjusted prices through the month is that eventually it’ll hit your reputation.

    The mathematical logic is undoubted.

    However, give it long enough for people within the same areas, social circles and families to begin to talk and compare, and problems ensue.

    Soon, your phone will be full of ‘but you acted for ‘x’ and only charged ‘y’. As this ball rolls on it becomes more frequent and soon you’re down to (broadly) the lower rate.

    This article ought be followed up by a piece on how revolutionising the service levels clients receive could lead to a mutual (client & conveyancer) appreciation of that higher rate. With faith in word of mouth ultimately generating further clients expecting to pay well.

    I presume that given the opportunity to generate the same revenue with half the clients your intention would be to double the time each benefits from?

    Maybe your follow up article could describe this and how it would reduce stress levels for both parties.

    Moreover how it would ultimately benefit the transaction.

  • test

    Challenging conditions and a well timed, thought provoking article.

  • test

    You mention changing prices part way during the month – but given that we are regulated and must show our fees on our websites, how would this work?

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