Thursday, 22 January 2015

Will the arrival of the 'Facebook Conveyancer' mark the end of the traditionalist approach?

I understand the  ideals behind a traditional conveyancer and the need for all conveyancers to act at all times in a professional manner. However  I must  question whether the demand for a traditional conveyancing service is still as great as it was at one time and indeed sufficient secure longevity in an ever changing and highly competitive market. 

A typical traditional conveyancer is someone who would not touch a conveyance unless a fee in excess of £1000 is charged, who operates with a secretary and per perhaps also an assistant, who takes long lunch breaks and who  loves to engage in long meetings and telephone calls with clients.  

He or she will also subscribe to the pigeon post mode of communication.  Receiving a letter placing it in a lovely wooden in tray and then after lunch getting out the dictaphone and dictating a very and long and flowery letter in reply.  The dictation would then sit on the tape until a couple of further long letters joined it when a few days later it would find its way to the secretary for transcribing. Once typed the letter would then be left for the conveyancer to check and sign, probably after  the completion of an afternoon on the golf course.  Three or four days later following the arrival of the letter into the office it would find itself on the post room awaiting despatch.  

As for technology, there would be a PC standing on the desk and one which  would probably be turned on but rarely used.  Perhaps the occasional surfing of the net would take place from time to time mainly though to check the latest cricket score. 

This description may be extreme and only representative of  a few but I am sure we have all come across a conveyancer who could be connected to some or all of these features.  I acknowledge there will always be a place for the traditionalist because there are some clients who are prepared to pay for this type of service and who have the money to meet the cost.   The question of whether this demand will last forever given the arrival of a generation who have grown up with technology and social media remains to be seen. 

The growth in Instant Messaging, Facebook, SnapChat and Twitter should be sending out alarm bells to these traditionalists, particularly the small traditional high street firms.   It may still be possible to demand high fees and to continue with traditional work practices but unless  change is on the agenda the prospect of longevity in a fast changing and competitive market is low. 

There is a high demand amongst a large group of the population for instant communication and greater transparency.  The time for a smoke and mirrors approach to conveyancing is at an end, the educated client does not need to be kept in the dark about what goes on behind the scenes, they want and indeed demand 24/7 access to all parts of the conveyancing process.  

The modern thinking client wishes to be notified on their smartphone when a development in the transition arises and also welcomes the ability to see post and other communication as and when it arrives.  This type of client also wishes to be able to communicate with his conveyancer electronically in ways which are already familiar such as Instant Messaging and Facebook. 

Snobbery is such that the traditional lawyer will look down and frown on the practices of a modern day conveyancer arguing that such service is vulgar and unprofessional.   Receiving an email or perhaps a message through an electronic case management system rather than a traditional letter in the post is often viewed as outrageous.  Add to this the practice of acting for a client outside one  mile radius of one’s office the Facebook conveyancer is often looked upon as a disgrace to his or her profession. 

Then there is the ongoing snipes as those conveyancers who charge low fees.   There seems to be a growing misconception around these firms.   Low fees do not always equate to an inferior service and those who sneer at 'bucket shop' conveyancers often fail to look through the anger and analyse why it is possible to run a successful business with such a low fee base.  There are many conveyancers out there who regard themselves as traditionalists, who charge high fees but who deliver a mediocre service.  On top of this many of these firms are operating under the misapprehension that they are making a profit out of the work.  The truth is that even though the Facebook conveyancer may be charging a low fee, the combination of good and efficient use if technology  and a low overhead base, often means that the business is well run. offers good client service and more to the point makes a profit.  

Rather than ranting and raving about these firms with a modern and forward approach to conveyancing, the energy of these doubters may be far better spent in carrying out a self appraisal and looking to challenge the traditional approach to conveyancing.  Is the technology you are using sufficient and advanced enough, do you really need all of those assistants and secretaries and has the time come to drop the old fashioned and generally unwanted modes of client communication. 

Who I ask though will have the last laugh.  The reality is that the Facebook Conveyancer has already arrived and guess what is making good money and building successful practices.  The time frame to get on board and to  begin competing with the likes of this new breed of lawyer is running short.  Right or wrong the life span of the traditional lawyer is limited and with the advent of ABS and the increased competition that time for charging large fees and dining out with clients is nearly at an end.  Only those with good technology and well oiled processes will be able to afford to stay in the market and survive.  

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 davidpett@m-j-p.co.uk

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