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Do we really need conveyancing awards?

We are about to enter the season of conveyancing awards and in this article I consider the question of whether we should view this as ‘silly season’ or a season to recognise and celebrate the success of those who are held out to be to be best conveyancers in the Country. 

I must start by admitting that I was persuaded last year to enter my business into one of the national competitions.  I was reluctant to do so but decided  I had nothing to lose apart from some time and a relatively small entrance fee.  

Surprisingly we  were shortlisted for a prize and our expectations were raised  but only to be dashed on the day of the awards when speaking to others at the awards dinner that we were told  that  we stood no chance whatsoever  of winning.  This naivety was soon revealed as correct when the winners were announced.  It seemed the seasoned entrants had an uncanny skill of predicting the winners!

Not to  be deterred and having a stubborn streak to prove everybody else wrong we entered the same competition this year and as secretly anticipated on enquiring ( and  after having received no prior notice ) we were told that we had not made the shortlist.  

So how are the ‘winners’ chosen?   

One might expect there is a call out of the blue to say your business has been nominated by a number of satisfied clients and you then turn up at the awards ceremony to see if you have won.   Not quite.   Instead you have to sign up and pay a fee.  You then have to complete an application form to say how fantastic you are and why you consider you should win the award.  This is then followed by a telephone interview involving an interviewer who has the status of a conveyancing expert.  You are asked questions and are rated on your performance.  There then follows a ‘secret shopper’ call.  Its only one call so if your new business team are not on the ball on that one occasion you will lose points. The experts then meet to choose a winner.  The experts are chosen by the organisers and come from various different areas of the conveyancing spectrum. 

A simple format and one that can be easily manipulated especially if you are fortunate to have a good PR team on hand.  A team that can help you with the application form and can brief the partner or director who will be involved in the interview. As for the mystery shopper, most businesses are good at getting new work in and whether or not the response to the mystery shopper is good or bad it really is not the most informative means of assessing the ability or otherwise of the business to undertake conveyancing work. 

This leads me to the question - how can you objectively conclude that one business is better than all of the other businesses if a) not all of the other businesses enter, and b) there is no engagement with the clients who must clearly be in the better position to express a view on the level of service offered. I acknowledge that the assessment carried out can help to see if a business is focused and committed to providing a quality service but its hardly a means of identifying a business which offers a quality conveyancing service better than others in that particular region.  There is a difference. 

At the end of the day the question one must ask is does it really make any difference or indeed matter who wins these awards.  Can those who come away with the kudos of an award say with any validity that it has led to an increase in work.  Most clients these days are won at grass root level, recommendation and or price.  Saying you were the regional winner of some national award from a company which has no meaning whatsoever to the consumer is unlikely to have any real influence.  Its about pride and the massaging of egos and nothing else. 

So if Heineken was running an awards ceremony how would they approach it.   On a practical level it would probably prove problematic.   My view is that a criteria based on client feedback, efficiency and staff morale levels would be a good start.  Being a good conveyancer is not about how well your PR machine might be, its about efficiency, speed, safety in terms of compliance and client satisfaction. 

As long as there are egos around there will always be companies around to exploit that hunger for recognition and for that reason the phenomenon of winning awards will always be an attraction.  For those who work hard, make a decent profit from efficient processes and who know from feedback that clients are happy and are returning, the message must be carry on as you are and do not lose sleep when you next read about business X winning a national conveyancing award.   

MJP Conveyancing 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

Comments

Rob Hailstone said…
I was asked to be a judge for the first time last year, for the Property Forum Awards. I was pleased to be asked and had no idea what to expect.

I spent a day in London along with four other judges. It was a long day. We reviewed all of the submissions sent in by the entrants. There was no favouritism, no heavy handed persuasion or anything other than genuine consideration of every applicant by every judge.

Yes, some entrants are more regular than other and, on the surface, more polished. But, give the judges some credit, we can see through a flimsy application quite easily. There needs to be some substance behind the fluff.

In one category two firms were lieterally neck and neck, a regular ‘big player’ entrant and a high street firm, a ‘first timer’. The ‘first timer’ got it. Although their gains were not quite as great as those of the ‘big player’ they were actually greater in comparison to the size of the two firms. The amount of time and effort spent creating the new systems and processes to benefit their client’s was huge.

But it’s not just about the award. It is also, in my opinion, about the ceremony. Conveyancing is a tough profession, with a few laughs and not much fun. An award ceremony gives everyone the opportunity to meet some of the people they deal with (when does that happen now?) and to let their hair down.

Not everyone can be a winner (that's not strictly true,everyone can be a winner, but their will only be one winner) but everyone can get involved and have some fun.
Roger Wilson said…
Spot on Rob. As another judge, I take your criticism very personally... it's never going to be easy task, but we try are hardest, based on the evidence we gather via various means.. and its amazing how some Conveyancers arrogantly think they can walk on water, then fall short in some area, when put under scrutiny.
David Pett said…
I may have hit a nerve here! The article was not meant to criticise, it was published to ask questions about how the process could be improved. I know you are both highly skilled and experienced to provide expert input and I am looking forward to seeing which firms this year emerge as winners. I still maintain that award competitions are geared to a particular type of business and are not everybody's cup of tea. I also stand by my observation that because one business in one area may come out with an award it does not mean other businesses in that same area are not as good. I recognise that in practice nothing will change and at the end of the day with out without a prize its about pride and whether as an owner of s business you can hold you head up high knowing that you have efficient processes, happy and returning clients, content staff and a profit to show at the end of the year.
David Pett said…
Richard - Thank you for your comment. I was not looking to cause offence and to prove this I have edited the entry having regard to your remarks.

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