What do a chicken and home moving have in common?

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall famously launched a campaign to raise consumer awareness about the welfare of chickens. Chicken Out! ran on his River Cottage TV show and it highlighted the unacceptable conditions in which most table birds are reared. Fearnley-Whittingstall’s aim was simple. “I’m putting pressure on the UK industry to raise their standards.” Take a quantum leap to the world of conveyancing — or the act of buying and/or selling property. A key differentiator for many clients is cost. Or more to the point, “Why should you get more of my money than one of those online conveyancing services?” “It is a great question to ask — one we are constantly challenged to deal with” says Martyn Morgan, Senior Partner at QualitySolicitors Talbots. So what is the difference man? Morgan: Fee man! Well firstly, there is a difference Morgan confirms. Secondly, there is no difference. Huh? At the end of the legal transaction, you will either own or have legally sold your property. Regardless of which route you travel. In that regard, there is no difference. But a house move is not just a legal transaction. It is an experience — and one of the most stressful ones we deal with in life. So what your experience is matters. “Poor-quality legal services are making home buying more stressful” is the conclusion of a recent report by the chief ombudsman. It is here one begins to answer the question “Why should I pay you more than one of those online conveyancing services?” Well, let’s challenge that first off. Morgan states that it is often the case that the fee paid to an online provider is actually more than you would pay to your local conveyancer. How? Because it includes ‘hefty introducer fees’ payable to either the mortgage broker or agent. But if there is a difference, if your local firm appears more expensive than an online provider, it is because ultimately the fee you pay makes a difference to the experience you enjoy. Service with a mile… The “…increasingly commoditised automated and competitive conveyancing market has resulted in traditional high street firms evolving or being displaced into conveyancing factories.” The further thoughts of Adam Sampson (the chief ombudsman) highlighting a trend towards ‘commoditisation’ — where the focus is on volume. “We had a recent issue with a ‘conveyancing service’ in another part of the country for a house move local to us” states Martyn Morgan, Senior Partner at Stourbridge-based QualitySolicitors Talbots. “They work seven days a week, from 9.00am to 8.00pm in the week and 9.30am to 4.30pm weekends. They also have a huge number of staff who…” And here is the rub. “Answer the phone and read what’s on the screen in front of them. Their lawyers are ‘back-room’ lawyers who do not speak to anyone. These are their words — not ours.” Huh? For conveyancing factories think call centres – or think supermarkets when the likes of Tesco first piled ‘em high and sold ‘em cheap. Commoditisation sucks business in to the centre – and with that you lose the personal feel of your local corner shop. Are you free, Mr Humphries? “They admit they have far too much work – more than they can cope with — despite huge staff numbers” Morgan affirms. “So files are being passed from lawyer to lawyer on a daily basis depending on who can ‘spare five minutes’ to look at it.” A spare five minutes? Local law firms pay care and attention to your move. As busy as they are, you’re a personal client with a name. One you can meet, talk to and call anytime. “At this ‘conveyancing service’, we spoke to a lawyer — eventually. His words to us were that he should not have to speak to anyone! It was merely his job to check the title and pass the file on.” Employee engagement “I would hate to work somewhere with that kind of structure and that kind of mentality” comments Talbots conveyancer, Claire Cole. People love doing a great job — it is called job satisfaction. Clients tell us it is so difficult to get through to ‘mass conveyancers’ as calls are not returned and updates are difficult to ascertain. The experience is uninspiring too. Being ‘on hold’ for minutes at a time; recorded messages and staff that read what’s on a screen are all issues that frustrate home movers. Final move Why should you pay your local law firm more? – Because the experience will be less stressful – Because you will experience a personal level of service – Because you can talk to your lawyer — whenever – And because our staff will enjoy looking after you “It is a truism that you get what you pay for.” And to that end, Morgan concurs with Fearnley-Whittingstall’s aim for his chickens and believes it applies to the conveyancing market. “I’m putting pressure on the UK industry to raise their standards.”

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