More than a third of conveyancing firms are considering becoming an alternative business structure (ABS), new research has found.
The survey of 361 conveyancers by search provider Searches UK also revealed predictions of large-scale closures of traditional law firms as a result of new competition.
Some 29% of respondents described ABSs as an exciting opportunity for conveyancing firms, and the same number said their firms are considering becoming an ABS, with a further 6% saying they will definitely look at it in the future. Nearly half (47%) ruled it out altogether.
By contrast, four in ten (42%) respondents described ABSs as a “terrible mistake” that will lead to many conveyancing firms closing down. A further 29% thought they were “not the best of ideas” that will cause small firms to close, although medium-sized practices will survive.
The survey found “overwhelming concern that the introduction of ABS will mean a drop in quality and standards within the conveyancing industry.
“The majority view is that the move will result in clients footing the bill for poor service after being seduced by ‘bucket shop prices’, whilst leaving a lot of conveyancers out in the cold as their share in the market place gradually dries up.
“Comments such as, ‘There is not enough work to go round at the present time, so with ABS coming into the market, people will be confused and I personally think that standards will drop’, and ‘Clients will deal with factory type operations and lose the personal touch’ were frequently noted throughout the results.”
Some 61% of respondents were worried that ABSs will not be regulated to the same standards currently required of law firms, while 71% would have preferred to see a single licensing authority to ensure a level playing field.