Would you use a lawyer or a licenced conveyancer?
Many of the older generation of lawyers complain about the introduction of licenced conveyancers to assist people with their property transactions. Obviously, they remember the times (ie,’ the good ole days’) when the conveyancing services market was only for lawyers. It was also the time when legal fees for conveyancing services were according to a scale rather than subject to market forces as they are today.
For me, I can’t provide any personal comparisons. Even though I’ve been in the legal industry since the late 1990s, the changes to the conveyancing services market took place before my time. For me, licenced conveyancers are an accepted part of the market in which I operate. I know a fair few licenced conveyancers and I think they have their place along side lawyers and offer clients a valuable alternative to using a lawyer for buying or selling property.
Without overly stereotyping the market, some clients only want conveyancing services and don’t want other information/advice regarding other areas of law, even if it’s relates in some way to their property transaction (yes, this is true). Sometimes that’s because clients make an informed choice but sometimes it’s because they’re not fully aware of how all areas of law and life are interrelated. For clients who can and do make an informed decision, then of course this is in their best interest. Those clients need and want a licenced conveyancer – and that’s it. There’s nothing wrong with that, right? A competent professional is a competent professional regardless of whether they’re a lawyer or a licenced conveyancer. But for the purpose of the clients’ property transactions a licenced conveyancer might not only be suitable but might also be the most appropriate professional.
HOWEVER, if clients only ask after licenced conveyancers because of a misunderstanding or lack of understanding of what a lawyer does or how their property transaction might give rise to other issues in other areas of law, that’s a real shame! I think there’s an opportunity and an important responsibility to educate and increase awareness about the differences between lawyers and licenced conveyancers and the different types of services that they provide.
For example, while the buying or selling of a property may be the key objective, many clients forget that this could have further reaching consequences on other areas in their lives, such as their estate and their estate planning or may their personal liabilities, arising from such things as taxation or duties. Couples who buy or sell property may also find themselves in more complex situations arising from relationship issues, which of course are rarely considered in the midst of their property transaction, but arise at a time when it is most convenient only to be compounded by not having considered it in the first place. A licenced conveyancer may assist them with their property transaction, but then who provides the right advice regarding how that property transaction affects other parts of their lives? Of course I’m not saying that in providing conveyancing services every lawyer takes a more holistic approach and provides advice to a clients that is beyond the property transaction. But this is what I do.
I think one of the biggest disservice a lawyer could provide would be to not advice their client about certain issues that the lawyer knows affects or will affect their client just because it was outside of the scope of their current retainer. The law is much more than just the immediate here and now.
A pessimistic outlook from an optimistic lawyer could save you a lot of cost and heartache in the future.