Thursday, 24 February 2011

Can outsourcing work for small and medium sized legal firms?

The buzz word within the legal profession is “outsourcing”.

A lot of the larger legal practices are already beginning to save vast expense through outsourcing backend and administrative tasks. They are handing this work to legal support services either from an outside law firm or a legal support company. If the work is outsourced to an entity based in another country this practice is sometimes called “offshoring”. The outsourcing industry is increasing each year and as of April 2010 there were around 5,200 professionals working within that sector. These were mainly based in India and the Philippines.

The question is whether a small sized legal practice should particularly in an age of austerity be looking at some form of outsourcing. The area in which there seems to be some growth is in the area of typing support.

Many of the providers of transcription outsourcing are based in the UK and work not only with legal firms but also other sectors such as the NHS.

The majority of these services operate on a “pay as you go” basis with no joining or monthly subscription fees. The dictation is digitally recorded and is transcribed by a nationwide panel of secretaries normally secretaries with legal experience.

There are a number of advantages to be gained by outsourcing transcription apart from the obvious one which is cost.

These include:

1.     The ability to get work out on the same day or within 24 hours of the work coming into the office which intern helps to speed up transactions and advance cases meaning that costs come in much quicker with the resulting benefit for cash flow.

2.      There is no sickness or holiday issues to worry about.

3.      The service can be provided 24 hours and is not limited to 9-5pm.

The downside is that those working on the typing of letters and memoranda etc are not aware as a secretary would of the background to the case and this lack of case knowledge can sometimes be found to be inhibiting.

There are also the SRA requirements to be addressed.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority issued its first public statement on the ethics of outsourcing back in July 2010. In general the SRA considers legal outsourcing to be perfectly acceptable as long as contingent ethical obligations are satisfied that include client disclosure.

In the statement issued the SRA notes “in accepting work from a client, the firm must always consider whether the work should be outsourced at all as they should have the necessary resources and competency to undertake the task. In summary a firm must act in the best interests of their client.."  

In November of 2010 the SRA announced that it is set to launch what is refers to as a “thematic review” of outsourcing. This is likely to take place sometime this year. The review is to identify whether there are any particular issues or risks that require changes to the current regulatory requirements or whether certain outsourcing arrangements need particular attention in a supervision process.

So coming back to where we started and the question of whether outsourcing can be an option for small to medium sized legal firms the answer must be yes although one must not underestimate the cost and management that will need to be invested in overseeing the outsourcing and making sure that the conduct rule requirements is met.

How much money would the outsourcing of transcription service save is really down to the individual firm to assess. The cost of a good legal secretary can range between £18,000 - £26,000 depending on the region. In comparison the cost of outsourcing is around £1 per minute of dictation and on the basis a fee earner will probably do around 60 minutes of dictation each day the annual cost is likely to be around £14,400.

Outsourcing will not be every firm's cup of tea but in an age where there is more and more pressure on resources this should be an option  to be considered sooner rather than later.

Morgan Jones and Pett are solicitors who provide legal advice and services to clients based in England and Wales and who can be contacted on 01603877000 or via email at

Friday, 18 February 2011

Housing Summit - No room for lawyers?

Interesting that the one absent party from the summit meeting on what should be done to help first time buyers, held and chaired by Housing Minister Grant Shapps on 15th  of this month, was  a representative of the legal profession.   

The meeting was attended by ‘leading industry figures’ representing home builders lenders, councils and consumers.   Perhaps the Housing Minister, who of late has been preoccupied with television and radio appearances in his capacity as Local Government Minister, does not regard housing lawyers as having thoughts and ideas on what can be done to help our first time buyers. Perhaps it was a case of a simple oversight.

Yes, I know it may be more to do with availability of lower cost housing, and more affordable lending schemes, but there is clearly room for improvement in the conveyancing process that could be introduced to simplify and make less expensive the cost of purchasing.  

Lawyers working in the residential sales and purchase market day in day out know that the process of buying a property is broken and full of unnecessary form filling and other bureaucracy.   If as Mr Shapps claims there is need for all of the players in the industry to pull more closely together then clearly it is important to ensure that he has present representatives from all relevant sectors.   

Housing Minister Grant Shapps said:

"I called on key figures from across industry to come together today, because we must do more to help aspiring first time buyers - the average age of the first time buyer with no support from their family is now 37, and there are 1.4 million households who aspire to own a home but are simply unable to do so because of house prices and mortgage availability.

"I wanted to hear a first-hand account of the problems the sector faces, but I also wanted to knock heads together so the needs of young people who want to buy a home are put first. The Government is working with industry to improve the availability of mortgages - but there also needs to be a much more unified effort from across the board to work together, so we can ensure that young people are not locked out of the housing market."

Good rhetoric, and good intentions, but how long does it take a Government to conclude discussions with lenders on increasing the availability of lending, and although I agree there needs to be improved communication between the various ‘players’, the time for action is now and  perhaps less talking and more positive action is the key to this problem.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Conveyancing - The client's role

Buying a property may not be as straight forward as you have been led to believe. Even though you have instructed a solicitor there are certain responsibilities that still rest with you and which you must keep in mind. It is important to note that your solicitor may be based outside the area in which you live and therefore may not have personal knowledge of the property you are purchasing.

Your solicitor will send to you during the conveyancing process a plan showing the boundaries of the property. It is important for you to go out and visit the property if you haven’t already done so to check that those boundaries match that shown on the title plan.

If there are any other properties adjoining the land or property which are purchasing which you consider may affect your enjoyment of your new home again it is important for you to let your solicitor know and to enable him to check the property concerned.

If you are buying a new home which is in the process of being constructed or which may have just been built again it is a good idea to have a good look around the plot speak with the developer and just make sure where exactly other properties are to be built in relation to your own.

If you have entered into any agreement with the seller direct for the purchase of items or any other aspect of the purchase it is important to make your solicitor aware of that agreement so that advice can be given if necessary.

Do not rely on advice given to you by the estate agent and/or mortgage broker. They are not legally trained and although their effort to assist is always exercised in good faith misunderstandings and problems can occur if you do not seek advice from the solicitor you have instructed direct.

The time it takes to purchase a property can vary and is influenced by a number of variable factors. A number of solicitors promise to complete a transaction within 4-6 weeks. This is often possible but can never be guaranteed. It is important to discuss any preferred completion dates or deadlines with your solicitor and to not make any arrangements for removal until a completion date has been agreed and confirmed to you in writing.

If you are purchasing a property and have received a mortgage with a short report on the condition of the property it is essential to obtain a more detailed report from a surveyor and before you commit yourself to the transaction. This is not a requirement of the process but when one considers that a substantial amount of money is being paid for the property it seems to us to be a matter of common sense that you would want to know everything about the condition of that property before making your final decision.

You may have noticed when looking round the property that the property has been extended or a conservatory has been attached and if this is so again it is important to mention this to your solicitor so they can check to make sure building regulations and planning permission was sought.

If you do not understand the conveyancing process do not be shy about asking your solicitor to explain it. The problem with many solicitors is that they are so busy and focused on getting you into your new home that they sometimes miss the fundamentals of explaining at the outset how the transaction will proceed.

Your solicitor may mention to you during the transaction covenants or restrictions which effect the property which you are purchasing.

Restrictive covenants are restrictions placed on the way in which the property is or can be used. They usually impose by the original owner or the developer if its a new property they may place limits on actions that can be taken for example the type of vehicle that can be parked on your drive.

If the property you are purchasing is a flat it is important to check that there is no restriction on letting and which is often the case a restriction on the type of pets that can be kept.

The other type of covenant that you need to keep your eye out for is one that imposes a positive obligation upon you. For example if there was a covenant that requires you to maintain a shared driveway it may also contain an obligation for you to contribute to the cost of maintaining that driveway.

You may wish to go in and inspect the property before your solicitor exchanges contract just to make sure that everything is still as you remembered it. It is not uncommon that it can often be a quite a long delay between inspection and the communication of the offer and when contracts are exchanged.

You may also wish to inspect the property again after exchange and before completion just to make sure nothing has happened between exchange and completion. It is very rare for anything to happen and most people leave properties in quite a reasonable condition before moving out. There have been horror stories however. There was one client who moved in to find out all the light fitting had been removed along with the radiators.

The seller has to make available to you a form identifying what fixtures and fittings are to remain in the property and what are to be removed. It may be worth taking a copy of this along with you when you carry out your inspection prior to completion.

I should add the inspection of the property is not an essential requirement of the process. It is only a recommendation that is made to avoid any misunderstanding that may happen after the property completes.

At Morgan Jones & Pett we try and ensure that your move from your existing home to your new home is as painless as possible and we are always on hand to deal with any queries you may have about the process. We also do our very best to ensure that you move quickly although we cannot as mentioned in this article make any guarantees about the time it will take as quite a number of the factors that influence the time of the transaction are beyond our control.

Further information about Morgan Jones & Pett’s conveyancing service please contact David Pett at

For a conveyancing quote please call Shelley on 01603877001

Conveyancing and Litigation - The differences

I have had the fortune to work in various different areas of the law during my career.  I started like most young lawyers of my time treading the boards of the local Magistrates Court trying my best to represent people who in the main had little appreciation for my efforts.  I then progressed into family law, running from court to court seeking injunctions only to be running back a week later asking for the injunctions to be withdrawn.  

For the majority of my career however I have been involved in the litigation process mainly undertaking personal injury work.  I have also undertaken sport related work acting for professional footballers and boxers.  A mixed bag which has become even more extensive in recent times with my introduction to residential conveyancing.   I have always had an interest in and enjoyed contract based work and therefore found the move into this area not so daunting.

My initial experience of this field of work has proved insightful. I have always looked upon conveyancing as uninspiring and dull.   A view I know shared by many other litigators.  I must say however that this is not a fair representation of what I have found to be a very demanding and often enlightening area of practice.  The danger, I suppose, of viewing and drawing conclusions from outside observations.

So how does conveyancing and litigation differ?

To begin with and the most noticeable difference is the pace at which conveyancing proceeds.  Unlike litigation where one is working within quite generous protocol and court timetables, the average conveyancing transaction time is around 6 to 8 weeks, during which the pressure to cross the finishing line is immense.  The fear of a transaction collapsing and the general stress of moving has made the process even more pressurized and demanding.  Letters coming into the office need to be answered on the same day otherwise the danger is that by the following day they will have been overtaken by events.

I equate the constant pressure to the buzz and work that goes into preparing for a large trial, making sure all of the witnesses turn up, collating and sorting trial bundles and generally ensuring all of the hard work undertaken during the previous 2 to 3 years is not put to waste.

The other major difference is the involvement of a large number of contacts and the obligation to keep everybody updated.  In litigation there is of course the client, the ‘other side’ and perhaps an insurer at the beginning. In conveyancing you can have two firms of solicitors to communicate with along with the two sets of estate agents and the client.    This has the effect of tripling the number of calls you would normally receive when working within litigation.

The third and major difference is the inconsistency in approach and application of the conveyancing process.  Each practitioner has his or her way of drafting contracts, some firms follow the Law Society protocol, other s follow local protocols.   It is clear that this is a process that is in need of reform.  It is too focused on form filling and administrative tasks and far more cluttered with pointless obligations and requirements than the court process that has benefited in recent years from constructive reform.

The time has come for conveyancers to step out of the ‘smoke and mirrors’ and join together to demand reform and to make the process simpler and far more consumer friendly.

Morgan Jones and Pett are solicitors who provide legal advice and services to clients based in England and Wales and who can be contacted on 01603877000 or via email at

Monday, 14 February 2011

Housing reviews announced

It’s taken the demolition of an industry, some of the worst trading conditions for decades but finally its seems our politicians are beginning to wake up and acknowledge that the housing market is in a complete mess and is in need of reform.

As to when it is likely we will see measures introduced it is not known, though with today’s announcement that Civil servants in the Communities and Local Government department are to carry out a review of the private housing market there is at least some glimmer of hope that change may happen sometime in the future.

The Coalition’s review will be led not by housing minister Grant Shapps but by Oliver Letwin a man whose ideology is unlikely to allow him to subscribe to any change that would involve the imposition of regulation.   

It is not known what areas the review will cover though there are reports in certain publications today that suggest it will cover house building and the state of the housing market.

At the same time it seems Labour will carry out its own review led by Caroline Flint, shadow CLG secretary.  It will be called ‘How do we meet families’ aspirations for good housing and a good home?’ and will last for a year.  It will cover all aspects of housing and interim results are due this summer.

Love or hate it the home information pack legislation represented a brave and progressive move on the part of the Labour Party, a move that will probably not be seen or even attempted for quite some time.

My concern is that for any change to take place and indeed survive it is essential that policy should be conceived with cross party support as without this we will inevitably witness a repeat of the shameless way the Coalition Government put ideology in front of consumer interest when it threw the conveyancing process back in time with the abolition of the home information packs. 

Morgan Jones and Pett are solicitors who provide legal advice and services to clients based in England and Wales and who can be contacted on 01603877000 or via email at

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Fixtures and Fittings are not too be overlooked when moving home

One of the most common questions that come across our conveyancing desks is what should I leave in my property and what should I expect the seller of the property I am buying to leave.  This should not come as a surprise given that fixtures and fittings is one of the most sensitive issues to arise during the transaction.  Upon a viewing of a furnished property you tend to build an impression of the property you are buying and when it comes to completion and you move in there is often a sense of disappointment.   Your expectation just does not match what you see!
So legally what is the position with fixtures and fittings? Well its quiet simple the seller is not obliged to leave any items; all they have to do when completing the Fixture and Fittings form is to state what they are willing to leave.
I recently moved and the seller aggrieved perhaps that he was selling undervalue decided to take all of the light fittings, the shelves that could only ever fit the alcove they were serving and most of the curtain poles. To be fair he did make good the plasterwork and replaced all of the light fittings with some cheap spotlights.
Even though the Fixtures and Fitting form is used to provide a list of what is to be left and what is to be taken it is not always easy to read and can often cause confusion. For this reason if you are unsure either get your solicitor to question the form or speak with the seller direct and agree an inventory.  This can then be attached to the contract.
This is important as if you remove something that the purchaser thought you were leaving you could find yourself in court.
So what is the technical definition of fixtures and fittings? A fixture is any item that is bolted to the floor or walls; a fitting is any item that is freestanding or hung by a hook or nail.
The focus of attention is normally on the property, the bricks and mortar, and the fixtures and fittings often do not get the attention they deserve.  Remember however to replace all fitted and freestanding furniture, central heating fixtures, telephones, curtains, curtain poles, satellite dishes, fireplaces and external dustbins could cost well in excess of £10,000.
For this reason it is important to pause and to take time to consider what is to be left and what you might wish to retain. You can always negotiate and agree a price for items that you would like to keep.   

Morgan Jones and Pett are solicitors who provide legal advice and services to clients based in England and Wales and who can be contacted on 01603877000 or via email at

Monday, 7 February 2011

Elton John has insider information on the new ipad?

In an interview this morning with the BBC Elton John seems to have let spill the fact he has some knowledge about the iPad2.

During the interview he told the BBC that he would be purchasing a “Skype iPad” in April this year.   This suggests that he is expecting or indeed has knowledge that Apple will be releasing its new version of the iPad with a front facing camera, and perhaps even a rear-facing camera.  

This seems to be a habbit as in an earlier interview with the Daily Telegraph he is reported to have said:

 “I’m a Luddite. I don’t have a phone, I don’t have a computer, I don’t have an iPad and I don’t have an iPod. But this is going to be a problem for me because they’re coming out with a Skype iPad in April and I’ve got to get one because I want to see my son when I’m not there — I’ll have to enter the world of technology.”

So of Elton has inside information it seems we will seeing a new version of the beloved ipad with a camera very soon.

Morgan Jones and Pett are solicitors who provide legal advice and services to clients based in England and Wales and who can be contacted on 01603877000 or via email at

Another volume conveyancer goes into administration

One of the largest players in the Home Information Pack industry, LMS, is reported  in Inside Reporter to have gone into Administration as well as being the subject of a management ‘buy out’. 

LMS had prior to and during the HIP regime become one of the largest conveyancing panel managers in the country.

Insider Media reported on Friday that:

“About 100 jobs have been secured at Ellesmere Port conveyancer LMS Holdings after the business was bought out of administration.

It is stated that LMS has experienced a “difficult trading environment which led to a financial restructuring”.

LMS Group Holdings, which is based at Cheshire Oaks Business Park, reported sales of £54m in the year to 31 March 2009 and a pre-tax loss of £3m.

Although no one is making a direct connection it seems that the sudden and wholly unnecessary complete withdrawal of  Home Information Packs in May 2010 seem to have had some bearing on the fate of this business.

Morgan Jones and Pett are solicitors who provide legal advice and services to clients based in England and Wales and who can be contacted on 01603877000 or via email at

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Divorce: the importance of choosing the right solicitor

Considering divorce can be a daunting experience at the best of times but when we are still coming out of a recession and may in fact be entering a second recession the thought of having to enter into ‘battle’ over the family assets is for some a major nightmare.

In some cases the only asset is the home and though there will be considerations to be taken into account if children are involved the resolution of the finances between the parties can be relatively straightforward.

However there are more complex cases involving businesses, investments, trust funds and even inheritances.  To find a solution that will meet the needs and financial goal of each party is not easy and often proves problematic as well as expensive.

The need for a good solicitor and one who can work with you to find a working solution without having to run up a large legal bill is essential.  The aim is to ensure there is full and early assessment of the value of the assets, usually with the help of specialist financial planners and other experts, and that the line of communication is opened early, and remains open, with all concerned.

You need to choose a solicitor who can handle you case in such a way so as to minimize the hostility and bitterness that often hampers progress.   A solicitor than can allow you and your partner to preserve your dignity and to work together in doing all that you can you to ensure that those assets which have been accumulated within the marriage are not lost in unnecessary legal and court fees.

A good solicitor will not be one who embarks on sending out inflammatory letters and whose actions only serves to fuel additional bitterness as well as taking money out of your pocket when it is not necessary.

The need to open up early and constructive dialogue with the solicitor acting for the other spouse is essential.   Early and open discussion on issues that you and your spouse believe to be addressed will help to ensure issues are constructively discussed and resolved and the need for Court intervention is reduced.

Morgan Jones and Pett are solicitors who provide legal advice and services to clients based in England and Wales and who can be contacted on 01603877000 or via email at

iPad 2 to be announced on 13th February?

There is much talk within the technology press about the possible imminent release of the iPad 2.  

The Mobile World Congress starts on the 14th February and there is good money on Apple releasing news of its launch next Sunday. This coincides with what was previously reported in Macnotes that the iPad 2 would be released at the beginning of Q2.

It is also suggested that Apple’s latest iOS operating system will be demonstrated at the same time.

Morgan Jones and Pett are solicitors who provide legal advice and services to clients based in England and Wales and who can be contacted on 01603877000 or via email at

Friday, 4 February 2011

Nationwide predicts extended stagnation in property market

Property costs declined by 0.1 per cent last month, taking the average home down to £161,602, according to the latest statistics published by Nationwide,.

This is a year-on-year decrease of 1.1 per cent and means houses now cost less than in September 2009.

Nationwide chief economist Robert Gardner said that although the outlook for the year as a whole is still uncertain, "the most likely outcome is that the pattern of low transaction levels and prices moving sideways or modestly lower will continue through 2011".

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Thursday, 3 February 2011

Property Ladder - Tips for moving up

Today saw an interesting article published on Money Supermarket’s website focusing on tips for those moving up the property ladder.  

It reports that recent research by Lloyds TSB has revealed that those looking to buy their first home are not the only ones struggling.  The bank found that 19% of people already living in their first home and looking to move on simply do not have enough equity to do so.

The average second home is priced at £48,216 more than the average first home, which is a hefty 32% increase.

The TIPs for those looking however to make that next step include:

Get an idea of your home's value:

Websites such as provide a lower, higher and average valuation depending on confidence and activity in the market. Make sure you keep a realistic view on the value.

Be prepared to take a price cut:

If your home isn't budging, be prepared to reduce the price as this might be your only option. According to the Lloyds TSB research just 13% of people will reduce the asking price if they can't sell their home at the current price

Try to keep the value to under £250,000:

The duty  jumps from 1% to 3% as soon as you break through the £250,000 mark on your new home, so try to keep under the threshold by shopping around and, of course, negotiating. Keep in mind that the average expenditure on other moving expenses is around £5,500.

Stamp Duty Tax planning may be option for those buying above £250,000.

Remember only first-time buyers who have never owned a property before are exempt from paying Stamp Duty on properties costing up to £250,000, and this exemption only applies until March 2012. If you are buying with someone else, they must never have owned property before either for the tax perk to apply.

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Senior Judge calls for change in law to benefit cohabitees

Sir Nicholas Wall, the president of the Family Division, has today said that Unmarried couples who split up after living together should have legal rights to a possible share of property and money. He added courts would be more sympathetic to a claim where the couple had been living together for a significant amount of time.

Currently apart from when children are involved a judge has no discretion to make financial provision or adjustment in the same way as is possible when dealing with married couples.  A sixth of couples in Britain live together with the number expected to rise.

Sir Nicholas told the Times: "I am in favour of cohabitees having rights because of the injustice of the present situation. Women cohabitees, in particular, are severely disadvantaged by being unable to claim maintenance and having their property rights determined by the conventional laws of trusts."

He added: "If cohabitation has been short and the contribution minimal, judges would not be sympathetic to a claim."

Morgan Jones and Pett are solicitors who provide legal advice and services to clients based in England and Wales and who can be contacted on 01603877000 or via email at

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Google Streetview and Museums

A new Google resource has today come on line. Google has extended its Streetview facility to enable some of the world's greatest museums and institutions to become visible through its 360° photo project. The institutions include the New York MOMA, the Uffizi in Florence and the Tate Modern in London. They can also be seen on a dedicated website that Google has created specifically for this project. 

Morgan Jones and Pett are solicitors who provide legal advice and services to clients based in England and Wales and who can be contacted on 01603877000 or via email at

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Conveyancing Quality Scheme - another Law Society 'White Elephant'?

The Law Society is now actively promoting  its new residential conveyancing quality scheme.

The Conveyancing Quality Scheme, which is supported by the Council of Mortgage Lenders, will provide a recognised quality standard for residential conveyancing practices.

No details of the benefits of the scheme are known, though the Law Society is planning to publish these at the beginning in April to coincide with the Easter house-hunting surge.

It is reported that Law Society president Linda Lee is claiming that over the past three years, the society had led consumer PR campaigns encouraging the public to use a solicitor rather than other legal providers – all of which had been successful.

This campaign it seems was rather low key as reports from some solicitors claim that the Law Society has not done enough to promote the profession and that a large section of the public has now resigned itself to be led by cost rather than quality.  

Linda Lee is reported to have said: “We now plan to do the same with CQS, a scheme which will be of genuine benefit to anyone buying a home.

“The aim is to generate publicity for legal practices which have secured the CQS mark of excellence and enable them to market their CQS status to the public effectively.

Until the benefits to the consumer are known a large number of solicitors are asking whether this scheme is likely to become another ‘white elephant’ similar to the Law Society’s Personal Injury and Clinical Negligence panels.   Those schemes that have been up and running for a number of years have had little impact on the consumer’s choice of solicitor.

The Law Society is hoping that this scheme will help solicitors compete with outside suppliers when they begin to come into the market after the full implementation of the Legal Services Act in October of this year.   The general view however is this move is represents  ‘too little, too late’  and is likely to have little impact.

Morgan Jones and Pett are solicitors who provide legal advice and services to clients based in England and Wales and who can be contacted on 01603877000 or via email at