More property transactions and fewer people doing the work have increased conveyancers’ caseloads, but amid mounting pressure their productivity has grown by nearly 70% since 2012, according to a survey.
Among other things, it found that in 2016 conveyancers were spending a day and a half less per case and doing one case a week more than four years earlier.
Between 2015-16, said the Search Acumen Conveyancing productivity index 2016, published today, the number of conveyancers dropped by 5% while the number of transactions rose by a similar number.
Using data from HM Land Registry, the Law Society, and the Society of Licensed Conveyancers, the conveyancing search company portrayed a section of the profession under growing strain, yet working faster and more efficiently to deal with bigger workloads.
Productivity levels had soared, the survey said. While average annual conveyancer caseloads were 71 cases in 2012, by 2016 they had risen year on year to reach 120 cases – a growth of 69%.
As a mark of efficiency, over the working year conveyancers were completing a transaction every 2.1 days on average in 2016, down from 3.6 days in 2012.
Over the same period, the total number of conveyancers in the industry fell by 11% to 17,964.
However, the combined total of sales and purchase instructions rose by more than 50% to 2.2m in 2016.
Between 2013-14 alone the number of transactions leapt by 28%.
Despite the increase dropping to a more modest 5% in 2015-16, stamp duty reforms in April 2016 put severe pressure on conveyancers as they rushed to complete transactions ahead of the changes, the survey said.
Andrew Lloyd, Search Acumen’s managing director, said: “With a remarkable uplift of nearly 70% in their output over just four years, there is no doubt that conveyancers are working harder than ever before for UK home buyers.
“But many conveyancers are also feeling the pressure. They are facing a significantly demanding workload at a time when advances in technology are ramping up consumers’ expectations of the service they will receive.
“To put it simply, there is more work to be done but fewer conveyancers to work on it. This is a concern because ultimately it’s homebuyers who will suffer.
“With their time at such a premium, conveyancers need to ensure that they’re not involved in a race to the bottom, sacrificing quality to handle the quantity of cases they are facing.”
Separately, a different survey found that SMEs in the legal sector tended to save less on average than similar-sized businesses in other sectors.
Data published by the Hampshire Trust Bank showed legal SMEs held an average of £317,000 in business savings accounts – far below the national average of £446,000.
According to the survey, at 38% of total funds the legal sector put a smaller percentage in savings accounts than any other sector, with the national average at 52% and the next lowest saver health and medical at 47% of total funds.