Some 67 law firms have so far pledged their support for the first ever National Conveyancing Week in March, an initiative which aims to boost the profile of conveyancing while helping educate estate agents and members of the public.
Its instigator, Rob Hailstone, CEO of the Bold Legal Group, said the aim was not to improve the conveyancing process but to help people understand that conveyancers were not “the bad guys in all this”.
Mr Hailstone said he was inspired to create the event because, having been a conveyancer for 30 years until 2005, he could see that the current generation of conveyancers were “not as satisfied by their jobs”, which were “far more challenging” than they had been.
“I enjoyed my job at the coalface most of the time, but it was a different job back then. We had 10 or 12 main tasks. Although most of the land was unregistered, we had no ID checks, no anti-money laundering or source of funds and no climate change issues.”
Mr Hailstone estimated that conveyancers now had to carry out 20 to 25 tasks, and there were “more coming at them” in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster in the form of the Building Safety Act 2022 and the new fire regulations, and the questions asked by lenders about them.
“When is it going to stop? When are we going to get to the straw that breaks the camel’s back?” he asked.
Although fees were higher than before the pandemic, transaction times were longer.
“The process is becoming untenable. Look at the reports about the mental health and wellbeing of conveyancers over the last couple of years.
“Everyone was struggling during the pandemic, and a lot of people were moving, trying to get into the countryside or by the sea. There was very little patience and a lack of understanding.
“It was only afterwards, when the dust had settled, that clients probably thought their conveyancer was actually very professional.”
National Conveyancing Week will take place between 20-24 March. It will combine online and live events designed to “inform, educate, assist, motivate, reassure, help recruit new entrants , improve the profile of conveyancers and conveyancing and ensure fees can be set at and kept at an acceptable level”.
Among the 67 law firms that have so far pledged their support are national firms Irwin Mitchell, Shoosmiths, Taylor Rose MW and Shakespeare Martineau.
The topics will include recruitment and retention, conveyancing as a business, mental health and wellbeing, and collaboration with estate agents, mortgage advisers and others.
Mr Hailstone said one of the in-person sessions, taking place in central London, would be a panel debate about providing more upfront information to help reduce transaction times.
There will also be a coffee morning in aid of the not-for-profit Conveyancing Foundation, which has already raised almost £1m for charity, during which conveyancers will “throw open their doors” to estate agents, mortgage brokers and members of the public.
Mr Hailstone said that, in a world where “everything was done by Zoom and Teams”, it was important to “break down some barriers” by meeting other professionals and the public in person.
He said National Conveyancing Week had the support of commercial sponsors, meaning that access for lawyers and others will be free.
“I hope it goes well and we can improve the lives of conveyancers and get more understanding from estate agents and the public. I hope the government will see that it can’t keep imposing more red tape and bureaucracy on conveyancers.”