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Why do property law firms struggle to answer the telephone?

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One of the most common complaints about property law firms is how difficult it is to speak to someone about a case.  This second only to the complaints about the difficulty to speak to someone who actually knows anything about the case.  Why is it so difficult to actually speak to a knowledgeable conveyancer and what is the solution?

The key problem

Most law firms are owned and run by lawyers who are used to do everything themselves. For example – suggest to a lawyer that a salesperson could do a quote and you will receive the following response;  “No.  Only a qualified lawyer can give quotes”.

Of course, those lawyers are usually too busy with other clients to have the time to take that call.  In this never-changing world, enabling telephones to be answered by someone who might be able to help is way down the average law firm owner’s agenda.

Conveyancing is a tricky, busy activity

There is a lot of snobbery about conveyancing.  Some consider it to be simple, mostly administrative work.  However, in reality, conveyancing requires an unusual combination of people skills, commercial acumen and legal knowledge.  Finding this combination in one person is tricky.

Time is not spent contemplating the ins and outs of legal minutiae, but instead, problem solving and applying the law to each unique case.  Coordinating answers from various sources means a property lawyer’s telephone is constantly ringing and availability of time is very limited.  When a lawyer is spending 45 minutes on the telephone to a mortgage lender, it’s no surprise they can’t take a call.

Lack of technology

Although law firms recognise that conveyancing is a manual process, there is very little decent technology available.  This slows the process of accessing information on a case, tying up even more resource.

Most law firms still rely on physical files, which require the individual to be in the same room as the paperwork.  If the lawyer is not available for whatever reason, it is difficult for someone else to help out with a telephone enquiry about the case.

Either the information is inaccessible due to physical location, or is held in the lawyers head.  Which at that time, might be at Thorpe Park entertaining their children.

Is there a solution?

Firstly, lawyers need to recognise that there are certain elements of their role that they can give up.  Typically, pre-instruction and post-completion can be delegated to other, trained people.  Specialisation is key

Secondly, in order to achieve this specialisation, law firms need to charge enough money to pay for people and technology.  Owners of firms need to have the confidence to walk away from low-fee work and spend time and effort winning the work themselves.  With good service comes strong referrals and with strong referrals comes better fees.

Finally, lawyers must be able to get hold of the information they need quickly and efficiently.  For this, they must move to a paperless environment. All documents and case information is immediately available to them or their colleagues.

Conclusion

Property lawyers are fundamentally too busy to answer telephones because of out-dated work practices.  They need break the circle of poor quality service which in turn impacts fees they can charge to enable them to afford to employ and train people needed to support them.