Nicola Scahill – consultant at BCL Legal – gives her overview of the UK’s conveyancing jobs market….

There’s no doubting that us Brits are passionate about owning our property; especially when compared to our European cousins. Sure, many people have been bruised following the downturn and economic turbulence of recent years but confidence is coming back. That’s not just our optimistic point of view as we’re seeing a real surge in demand for talented property lawyers across the UK and there’s no greater evidence than firm’s hiring…

There are various reasons for this new ‘property renaissance’; none more so than the government’s Help to Buy Scheme which now — thankfully – has an extended stay until 2020.  It has, of course, generated much debate, but talk of it causing ‘a housing bubble’ is way off the mark, in my view.

Whilst recent reports from the Council of Mortgage Lenders showed house purchase loans increased by 33% in February, which equated to 48,400 loans being advanced in the month in comparison to 36,500 the previous year; and a survey from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors claimed the number of homes sold by surveyors has jumped to its highest level in over six years — there is still room in the market. It’s good to be cautious but claiming we’re heading into a state of over-heating isn’t the reality… especially if you look at the whole country and not focus on what’s happening in London and the South East.

From a recruitment point of view, these factors have made their mark right across the UK… The Yorkshire and North East markets are home to a number of Legal 500 listed and award winning specialist conveyancing firms; all are experiencing an increase in instructions and are looking to expand in order to meet demand.  Therefore, now is an ideal time for any experienced candidates who want a new challenge within the residential property sector. However, there’s also scope for people to return to this area of law as many left when the market collapsed. The vast majority of firms are crying out for residential conveyancing fee earners to handle caseloads as well as ambitious assistants and paralegals to support their teams. Salaries in the region are very competitive with firms of all sizes being acutely aware of the importance of ensuring candidates are offered training and career development programmes.

Over in the North West, the property market is also booming with Manchester leading the way. Recent reports have claimed the city is beating London with an 18% increase in house prices over the past year.  All of this is great but demand for conveyancing services across the region is being pushed to the limit.  Volume conveyancing houses, niche property practices and smaller high street firms are recruiting at all levels and those with more experience are in the biggest demand.  Competition between firms is also high so conveyancers who are looking for pastures new are finding they have more options than ever before. 
My Home Move, which recently opened in Manchester, is predicting that the launch of the Mortgage Market Review (MMR) on the 26th April will have a dramatic effect on the conveyancing industry and claims the top 100 firms will increase their share of the mover conveyancing market by 35% and that 15% of the smaller firms will close their doors by the end of 2015.  There is also the suggestion that lenders will continue to tighten their processes, be more selective on who they lend money to and run stricter panels.
Instructions from Midlands firms vary from small high street practices through to volume conveyancers and large commercial firms.  Boutique high street firms are recruiting fee earning paralegals to run full caseloads from instruction through to post completion, whilst the medium to larger practices are preferring to recruit qualified staff such as solicitors, legal executives and/or licensed conveyancers. 
The volume providers tend to be more flexible in terms of background and offer fantastic training and career development.   The Midlands market is booming but like other regions there is a shortage of experienced candidates.  This has had an impact and we are experiencing an increase in the number of candidates being counter offered as a result.  

In conclusion, it’s certainly an interesting and dynamic time for the property sector and for talented conveyancers who want to make their mark. Things are looking positive but time will tell and the next couple of years will certainly be crucial in shaping the future of the market. 

BCL Legal is proud to be sponsoring the LFS Conveyancing Awards in September.
To discuss current opportunities in the property sector, please contact:
Yorkshire/ North East: Nicola Scahill — [email protected] 
North West: Nick Carroll — [email protected] 
Midlands: Chantel Gallagher — [email protected] 
South West: Kate Hale — [email protected]
London: Matthew Porter – [email protected] 
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