Conveyancing jobs are on the up! But are you protecting yourself and your client?

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11 August 2014

Conveyancing: market on the up

Posted by Lawyer Checker

Due to the upturn in the property market – good news for all – the market is seeing a surge in demand for conveyancers, with salaries on an upward swing.

Residential conveyancers are now at such a premium that they can secure an average 8% salary increase by moving jobs in the current climate, compared to a drop of 11% during the six month period to 31 December 2013.

The findings come from Douglas Scott Legal Recruitment, which looked at salary differences for over 100 candidates placed during the last six months of 2013 and the first six months of 2014.

Director Jonathan Nolan, formerly a residential conveyancer himself, said: “We have noted salary increases across all levels, with the biggest difference amongst property lawyers in the £20-26,000 range. In many instances within this group – particularly in the South East – we have secured salary increases of up to £12,000.”

One candidate within the last six months secured a pay rise of 60%, according to Douglas Scott, whereas last year some candidates were taking pay cuts of up to 50% as they were forced to find alternative employment.

The residential conveyancing market has bounced back after a near wipe out during the recession that followed the property crash in 2008. Douglas Scott recently reported an average 150% year on year increase in demand for fee-earners across all regions.

Mr Nolan concluded: “In research we carried out for our recently published 2014 Salary and Benefits Benchmarker, we discovered that 30% of property lawyers cited redundancy as the main reason they moved jobs in 2013, compared to 17% across all practice areas. We expect money and progression to be the main reason they move this year and it is nice to see the tide has turned.”

The tide has turned – but conveyancers need to be more vigilant than ever. It is great news to see the property market growing and becoming healthy again; the demand for conveyancers is on the up and fee-earners are working with the knowledge that jobs are perhaps a little more secure than they were a couple of years ago.

Unfortunately, alongside this positivity, there is an increase in the movement of property transactions, increased value of said transactions and all the more temptation for the chancer criminals looking to make quick cash gains using unwitting conveyancers as their accomplices.

With the release of the SRA’s second Risk Outlook in June, it became clear within the document that conveyancers need to be more aware than ever before of the overwhelming threat of bogus law firms and, most pertinently following the scam alert about Jiva Solicitors, the criminal conveyancer.

With previous and precedent setting cases such as Nationwide and RA Legal making the headlines, identity theft and infiltration into all aspects of the conveyancing chain by criminals is a scary reality for the hard-working conveyancer, their team and their firms.

So what can you do to spot the unscrupulous criminals who are looking to steal your client’s money?

Top 10 tips to beat the bogus conveyancer:

  • Look out for simple spelling errors and discrepancies on headed note paper and contact information;
  • If the conveyancer you are dealing with is using a mobile phone only coupled with generic email addresses, do consider this. It could be a sole practitioner working from home, but could also indicate a risk;
  • If the sort code you are sending funds to is a long distance away from the office that you are dealing with, check why this is. Most firms will have their bank account based in the same town or near to another office;
  • Be wary of continued unexplained delays in your transaction and any continued inability to get hold of the conveyancer you are dealing with;
  • Keep track of scam alerts (link: issued by the SRA;
  • Look out for inconsistent telephone numbers to those used by the firm – they could even be the same area code;
  • Be vigilant to look for and investigate all discrepancies or issues throughout your transaction. For example, is the account name suspicious? Is the person you are dealing with handling the transaction as you expect? Check ALL documents as they come to you for discrepancies;
  • Take this risk seriously! Ensure that your entire team are educated on this type of fraud and that you have measures in place to protect your firm;
  • Check listings for your own firm – criminals could steal your identity too!; and
  • Run a Lawyer Checker check and use the leading and original risk management tool designed to enhance your due diligence before sending funds.

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