Licensed Conveyancer or Solicitor - Who should you choose to do your conveyancing?

18/10/2018

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Choosing whether to use a Licensed Conveyancer or Solicitor when buying a house is confusing; especially if you don't know the difference. You may assume that it is best to choose a Solicitor based near to your home in the hope that they'll understand the local market. The fact is that regardless of whether you choose a Licensed Conveyancer or Solicitor you could face slow communication, holidays, slow replies and an aversion to using email. This article will explain why and what you need to look for before choosing who to help you with buying or selling a property.
Conveyancer or Solicitor

What is a Licensed Conveyancer?

A Licensed Conveyancer is a term used for anyone working within a law firm who is registered with and regulated by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC). The entry level is a CLC Technician and the full qualification is a CLC Lawyer. To achieve CLC Lawyer status (as a fully qualified Licensed Conveyancer) they must have been in full or part time, paid or voluntary employment assisting in the provision of conveyancing services for at least 1,200 chargeable hours (around 150 days); based on 25 supervised hours a week for 48 weeks, certified by an “Authorised Person”. An Authorised Person can be a Licensed Conveyancer, a Solicitor or a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (FCILEX) licensed to offer conveyancing services directly to the public.

A Licensed Conveyancer working in conveyancing will have experience solely relating to the transfer of property title from one person to another. Although a Licensed Conveyancer is regulated by the CLC they can in fact work in a solicitor's law firm that is regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

Licensed Conveyancers must adhere to the CLC Handbook (including the code of conduct) and failing to do so could mean the CLC lawyer gets a warning or is struck off. A Solicitor or CLC lawyer who has been struck off cannot practise or hold themselves out as a Solicitor. You can check to see if a Licensed Conveyancer is struck off by visiting the CLC website.

Council for Licensed Conveyancers or Solicitors Regulation Authority

The law firm you instruct to help you buy or sell your home will be regulated by either the CLC or the SRA. The CLC regulate Licensed Conveyancing firms and the SRA regulate Solicitor firms.

What is a Solicitor?

A Solicitor can provide legal support on a wide variety of legal matters; not just conveyancing, although it is more common for Solicitors to specialise in a specific area of law. Solicitors can represent clients in the lower courts (magistrate court, county court and tribunal), and with specialist training are also able to represent them in higher courts (crown court, high court, court of appeal). The route to becoming a Solicitor is varied, however a common route is 3 years at university studying law, 2 years at Law College and 2 years as a trainee solicitor (7 years in total). Solicitors train in a number of different areas of law.

Solicitors must adhere to the SRA Code of Conduct 2011 and failing to do so could mean the Solicitor gets a warning or is struck off. A struck off Solicitor cannot practise or hold themselves out as a solicitor. You can check to see if a Solicitor is struck off by visiting the Law Society website.

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What are the 3 things to look for when choosing a conveyancing lawyer?

Whether you choose to work with a Licensed Conveyancer or a Solicitor the following are our top 3 things to check.

    1

    Don't rely on an estate agent referral

The estate agent selling the property will often suggest a property lawyer that they have a commercial relationship where they are paid a fee for referring the lawyer - £200 to £500. These referrals don't guarantee the service levels provided by the referred lawyer. You should never feel forced into using your estate agent's Solicitor (click to find out more).

    2

    'Yo Yo' reviews

Buying online has taught savvy buyers to check out the reviews of their chosen lawyer, however how much can you honestly believe them? Here are our tips:
  • 5 star, 1 star, 5 star - yo yo reviews send an odd message to any potential client. Is it that the lawyer offers a 50/50 service, or does the law firm pay marketing companies to get them 5 star reviews when they receive 1 star reviews (yes this does happen - fake reviews are a way to hide a bad service)? If you spot this read some of the one star reviews and then ask the lawyer about the case; what happened? What did the lawyer do to address this issue moving forward? Will the bad reviews claims of 'bad communication' be reflective of the service you will receive?
  • 5 star with no comment - we get 5 star reviews and when clients leave them they should share in detail the reason why. Reviewers might name the Solicitor who helped them and mentioning a specific thing or event that occurred that made them think our service was excellent. It can be strange to see a 5 star review without any comment or review of the service. Be wary of these reviews as 5 star reviews with no comments are a sign of a law firm getting a marketing company to inflate their 5 star reviews - who leaves a 5 star review without saying something about the service they've received?
  • Google, Facebook or Trustpilot? - read them all. Google reviews can be left by any client who has a Google account, Facebook offers a very open arena for reviews, and Trustpilot is similar to Google. Our top tip is to see if the reviewer has reviewed any other reviews to confirm if they are a regular reviewer (especially if the review is bad)

    3

    Slow quote, slow service

You'll find that when you want a conveyancing quote you'll find some law firms provide:
  • an online conveyancing calculator which is great for doing some window shopping for price comparisons; or
  • quotes after you call the Solicitor and discussed your conveyancing requirements.
Online quotes should be normal practice, however if your Solicitor sends you a quote by email or post and it takes longer than a day to reach you, then see this a sign of things to come. Law firms that embrace technology can offer a more streamlined and efficient conveyancing process.

Frequently Asked Questions about Licensed Conveyancers

What qualifications do you need to be a Licensed Conveyancer?

A Licensed Conveyancer is a qualification and means the person is competent to provide legal advice. You do not need any previous experience or qualification before you start working towards gaining the Licensed Conveyancer qualification.

Is a Licensed Conveyancer a Solicitor?

A Licensed Conveyancer is not a Solicitor and has a different regulating body. Much like in accounting you might have an accountant who is a member of the AAT, CIPFA, ICAEW, CIMA or ACCA; all are trained to provide accounting services but are members of different professional accounting organisations.

Do I need a Solicitor and a Conveyancer?

No you only need one legal representative to act on your behalf during the conveyancing process and you can choose between instructing a LIcensed Conveyancer or a Solicitor.

How long does it take to become a Licensed Conveyancer?

It takes less time to qualify as a Licensed Conveyancer than it does to qualify as a solicitor. To achieve CLC Lawyer status (a fully qualified Licensed Conveyancer) they must have been in full or part-time, paid or voluntary employment assisting in the provision of conveyancing/ services for at least 1,200 chargeable hours (around 150 days); based on 25 supervised hours a week for 48 weeks.

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