A groundbreaking conveyancing business offering a guaranteed time to exchange and encourages instructions from both sides of a transaction goes live this week, Legal Futures can reveal.
Muve represents more than a rebranding of Connect2Law (C2L), a three-year-old alternative business structure, and aims to focus on speed and transparency for clients.
C2L is a one-time law firm network that was reborn as an ABS in 2016 and acquired leading referral business Contact Law to focus on white-labelled legal services on behalf of corporates, retailers and affinity groups, and has since focused in particular on volume conveyancing work.
The rebrand represents a major shift in focus to direct-to-consumer conveyancing. Muve chief executive David Jabbari said he and the other founding directors, Dan Watkins and Claus Werner, have spent the past three years “forensically analysing” the practice, involving process mapping, offshoring and developing technology.
Muve has 40 staff in the UK and 30 in Sri Lanka who handle a lot of the administrative work, although Mr Jabbari said that they may in time be given tasks that are currently the preserve of lawyers. Legal outsourcing Exigent is an investor in the company via its investment vehicle Bright Minds Capital Ltd.
“One of the lessons is that you have to accept that the purchase of conveyancing is a reactive process – it’s not something people feel hugely enthusiastic about. So what really counts is speed and transparency of process.
“Then we decided to take it one step further and give real certainty.”
Customers can sign up to the standard conveyancing service – starting at a price of £699 – or pay an extra £500 for the ‘muveFast’ service, which targets exchange within 25 days for straightforward, chain-free transactions.
The guaranteed period could be longer, depending on the nature of the transaction, but is confirmed ahead of instruction.
If the guarantee is not delivered, the fee is reduced for every working week the deadline is missed, down to the base £699.
“Even if we don’t meet it, the fact we’ve run it through the process means it will still be quicker than the industry average,” said Mr Jabbari.
He added that the guarantee was subject only to “limited” exceptions, mainly where clients did not complete certain tasks themselves in a prompt manner. “If something more fundamental happens, like a chain collapses, we won’t get our extra fee.”
Mr Jabbari acknowledged that, with chains only moving at the speed of the slowest link, there would likely be factors beyond the firm’s control affecting the guarantee.
As well as pushing other conveyancers “hard” – and giving them access to its online portal so they can share data – the solicitor said “we will do our utmost to act on both sides of the transaction”.
Muve is regulated by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers, which has a more liberal approach to acting on both sides than the Solicitors Regulation Authority, and Mr Jabbari said that this approach – with the firm using separate teams for each party – would “revolutionise the transaction” and potentially get to exchange within a fortnight.
“We will be pushing this hard,” he said. “Both parties are intent on the same objective and in practice there are very few conflicts.”
Mr Jabbari said Muve had made a conscious decision to be “bold” in its offer to clients, and argued that the law was not different to other “service sector conundrums” where providers have been worried about making promises about timescales.
Estate agents were also attracted by the guarantee, as it meant they would be paid more quickly, which he said was more important to them than a referral fee.
Further, Muve has built an automated ID service with Equifax that it will make available to estate agents to simplify the anti-money laundering checks they have to carry out.
They will also be able to log on to the portal to check the progress of the transaction.
Mr Jabbari explained that his thinking has changed in the years since the introduction of ABSs, because the entry of big brands into legal services – about which he had been “evangelical” – has not materialised and would not now happen.
He said legal services did not provide enough financial benefit to those companies with strong brands and high lifetime customer value to risk a slow conveyancing transaction damaging their long-term relationships with a customer.
He said Muve’s mission was to be one of the dominant standalone conveyancing firms but also to provide a range of valuable services to home movers in which conveyancing may be a component rather than the exclusive offering.