Law Society and solicitor conveyancers. Who is most embarrassed about the other?
The Law Society Excellence Awards this week were a really good opportunity to demonstrate why so many conveyancers should continue to choose to be part of the Law Society. The Law Society has a chance to demonstrate that it values the excellence of conveyancers in the same way as it values every other solicitor community within its umbrella of representative functions. This opportunity was unfortunatley missed but it might not have been wholly the Law Society’s fault.
The Law Society represents solicitor conveyancers. Ok it also represents all other types of solicitors, but the residential conveyancing market for all conveyancers is on its knees and needs support from this one major representative body that has clout and is presently chosen by most conveyancing firms to represent it. We have faced three very difficult challenges and we are still reeling from the shock. Firstly, the recession has caused considerable over supply of conveyancers or weak demand. Whatever your perspective redundancy in its broadest definition and price competition has been the result. Secondly, the issues caused by poor quality work have resulted in negligence claims against our insurers by our lender clients. This is a challenge of our own making but is not unrelated to the first challenge as there are few repossessions in a bouyant market, and thirdly the impact of commoditisation on the sale of conveyancing and delivery processes many firms now operate under. No other area of legal work has yet to really face commoditisation properly in the way conveyancers have, but I know it’s coming to them too soon. At the moment many conveyancers feel disowned by other parts of the solicitor profession because some conveyancers have had to embrace automation to survive.
As a sector we have faced and still face a real disaster with hundreds of solicitors and other conveyancers losing their jobs and businesses. Those that have survived have had to reinvent their businesses roll up their sleeves and learn new tricks.
If you are trading profitably, are still on lender panels, maintain a relatively claim free record and have clients that keep coming back and are satisfied, have walked through the minefield of regulation and still have your head up and want to do new things and grow your business…I think you are excellent. Not only do I think you are excellent I think the representative body should be shouting about you at the excellence awards. Not just shouting, getting you in your local press, raising a flag and pointing the whole of the rest of the profession at you and cheering loudly. And there are many conveyancers out there doing that despite everything but this week they received none of the glamour or praise they so deserve.
I even spoke to one excellent solicitor at the award evening last night who was sitting on a table with a number of licensed conveyancers, a small East Anglian business that had completely reinvented its conveyancing model embracing technology and increasing its volumes to the point where it had moved from a loss making situation into profit but also increasing its client satisfaction. This is the type of firm we should all be proud of.
Very unfortunately the Law Society’s panel of judges didn’t find an excellent conveyancer this week to praise or celebrate. To be fair they didn’t have any conveyancers really to choose from ! This was because conveyancing firms didn’t put themselves forward as excellent in the main. Ramsdens were a notable exception. Large firms with big conveyancing departments put themselves forward but generally not for conveyancing excellence. Only a few awards allowed conveyancers to really showcase their achievements but even then few applied.
Don’t we believe some solicitor conveyancers are excellent? OK we aren’t all excellent but surely there are some that truly are and deserve the attention of their representative body?. I believe I know a few that are really taking their businesses forward, for their clients, despite the tough conditions and demonstrating all the good ethical and moral behaviour that the profession is proud of whilst innovating and dealing with new market challenges.
Maybe the Law Society has put some off. We know that it wants solicitors to join the Conveyancing Quality Scheme to rebuild trust in what we do. The implication being that we have destroyed trust in the past. We understand that this scheme has a high cost and many have paid thousands of pounds to join and demonstrate their contrition at past failures of their colleagues. This might be the right thing to do but where was the representative body at the time when standards slipped? It can’t all be stick and no recognition of the things that are going right, can it?
One way or another conveyancing solicitors didn’t engage with the awards last night. The body elected to promote all solicitors couldn’t find an excellent conveyancing solicitor to showcase.
Maybe next year at least one conveyancing solicitor will have done enough to be celebrated as excellent by the Law Society. In the meantime we understand that the competition for “Conveyancer of the Year Awards” in the Estate Agency Awards Evening in December has lots of nominations.