manualIf you believe the legal trade press, the process of house buying and selling is going through momentous change. There are regular press announcements of technology that is going to simplify the conveyancing process. Sadly, the harsh reality is that conveyancing is dominated by small law firms that have not changed for years. Any suggestions of new working practices are quickly dismissed. With lawyers getting involved in all aspects of the transaction, the quality of client service will continue to deteriorate.
Based on our experience of interviewing lawyers, we’ve identified 5 activities that we think they need to stop doing immediately.
There’s an unshakeable belief amongst lawyers that the first contact a client has with a law firm must be with the lawyer. They back this up with the argument that only a qualified lawyer can give informed answers to a client’s questions. Ironically, lawyers are not allowed to give advice without signed instruction letters. It’s far better to train sales staff in the conveyancing process and have them deal with all the preliminary questions. This can be done before any legal work begins.
Finally, one thing that lawyers should not do is use automated quoting software unless they are keen to compete in the bargain-bucket end of the market.
Anti-money laundering checks
Some legal secretaries run initial checks. However, when information is not straightforward or the source of funds or wealth needs to be checked, lawyers are jumping in and getting involved.
There is perfectly viable technology available to do this type of work available today. They just need to trust it.
Updating third party portals
Some lawyers are still being forced to manually update third party portals. We do have sympathy for those whose partners have given up trying to win work themselves and have signed up to a panel manager. However, we regularly come across lawyers who are spending time ensuring that the panel manager’s portal is up to date.
Frankly, this is a job that they should not be doing. Sadly, the use of effective case management is so rare that integrating different systems is just not an option but lawyers do need to back away from this work.
Dealing with completion
Lawyers should be deployed in the area where they have the most expertise. Ensuring that clients successfully get to Exchange of Contracts. Once the deal has exchanged, the issues surrounding completion are highly time-pressured. Clients need care and attention at this stage. Lawyers should not be getting involved in ensuring that mortgages are redeemed or completion monies have arrived in time.
A trained team that specialises in this area would be more effective. The client would receive support during the completion phase as this will be their lasting memory of the firm.
Once the client has moved house, there is still a significant amount of work that needs to be done. Whether it is submitting Stamp Duty Land Tax returns, or dealing with registration problems, these issues need to be dealt with. Whilst firms do use trained staff to carry out this work, there are occasions, especially with leasehold transactions where lawyers are stepping in to handle issues such as retention’s or problems with registration.
By training a team to handle the more complex issues, lawyers will not be distracted from the day to day business, and the likelihood of deadlines, such as tax returns will not be missed.
With the continued pressure on margins and rising client expectations, it has never been more important for lawyers to focus on the areas of the transaction where their expertise is required. Technology and new processes has a lot to offer law firms that embrace the changes.