Posted by Ed Jones, product manager at Legal Futures Associate Access Legal
For firms that held the Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS) certification in December 2022, the six-month window to complete the new syllabus and remain certified has now passed.
CQS-certified law firms have six months after a new syllabus is released to complete the updated training courses and remain accredited.
Regardless of the ever-fluctuating housing market, conveyancers are still in demand and therefore need to be highly trained to offer quality services to buyers and sellers. Property transactions rose at the beginning of the year, despite predictions of a slump.
They have since taken a downturn, but this could be due to a multitude of factors, including the government’s Help to Buy scheme deadline and seasonal aspects.
As the market doesn’t look to be settling any time soon, it’s important for law firms to meet the mandatory training obligations, to ensure they’re prepared for the forecasted unsettled housing market and any sudden increase of transactions.
The CQS quality standard shows all parties involved in the conveyancing industry that a law firm is a trusted resource for advice. It is the firm’s responsibility to appoint a senior responsible officer (a CQS SRO) to ensure everyone has completed the course correctly and to raise awareness of the importance of gaining the certification.
Their remit also involves understanding the consequences if the course isn’t completed and what it means for their future conveyancing practice.
The certification demonstrates that firms have the expertise to deliver quality residential conveyancing advice, adhere to standardised processes and have the necessary knowledge of the sector to educate clients on what to expect from their conveyancing services.
The training helps firms minimise the risk of claims, protects their reputation, and recognises them as a trusted source of information and advice.
Before applying for the accreditation, firms need to ensure they’re up-to-date on the latest legislation involving issues such as stamp duty land tax in England, land transaction tax in Wales, tax returns and first-time buyers’ relief.
As new developments are released annually, firms should update their training to ensure they are on top of trends and new processes, to keep their accredited status.
The two new syllabuses that were released in December 2022 included financial crime, protocol in practice, and CQS conveyancing practice and CQS risk, compliance, and client care.
Being CQS certified isn’t mandatory, and firms don’t need it to practice, but they risk losing clients if they can’t show evidence of their staff’s understanding in the field or can’t prove that they are a trustworthy source of information. Firms risk losing their CQS status if they don’t complete the updated training.
The ‘great conveyancing crunch’
Being CQS accredited also helps to set you apart from your rivals.
Recent research showed that, in the past decade, the demand on the property market has risen, with property transactions nearly doubling while the number of active conveyancing firms has shrunk. This has become known as ‘the great conveyancing crunch’.
The survey recorded how annual property transactions sat at 714,000 in 2012 versus more than 1.3m in 2022, when the number of active firms also fell by 10%.
This supports the fact that, while there are fewer firms to complete transactions, there is still a high demand for conveyancing services and advice, with added strain on firms to beat competitors in a more consolidated market.
Conveyancers are feeling the pressure with a higher workload, and completion times might be longer, but they need to look at the long-term benefits of being able to offer the best service and guidance to homebuyers.
Consumer confidence in services is low, because of soaring costs, and therefore it’s even more important that firms are fully accredited and viewed as reliable. Proving that your firm is on top of their industry and training requirements will help to gain a customer’s trust.
Access Legal is the only approved provider of the CQS certification outside of the Law Society.