The fragmented nature of the conveyancing market has been laid bare by figures showing that nearly a third of the 9,000 legal practices which registered dealings with the Land Registry last year handled 10 or fewer transfers.
While MyHomeMove made almost 10,000 applications for transfers in 2010, 834 firms only made one application the whole 12 months, according to Land Registry figures.
There were a total of 721,089 applications across 8,976 firms in 2010, of which the top 10 practices accounted for 36,135, or 5%.
The breakdown of transfers of value registered by keyholder accounts, obtained by Today’s Conveyancer, shows that MyHomeMove (9,673 applications) and fellow licensed conveyancers Countrywide Property Lawyers (8,940) were clear at the top of the pile. Third was the highest-ranked solicitors’ firm, Stockport-based O’Neill Patient, with 3,757 applications.
The rest of the top 10 was made up by Shoosmiths (3,305), Stoke firm Grindeys (3,305), northern home counties practice Browns Solicitors (2,635), Beaumont Legal in Yorkshire (2,435), York and Lincoln firm Langleys (2,427), Convey Law Ltd (2,424) and Barnetts of Southport (2,395).
Fridays Property Lawyers, which Legal Futures revealed last month had gone into administration at the end of 2010, was placed 17th with 1,614 applications. Major practices such as Pannone, Eversheds, Enact and Goldsmith Williams were also in the top 25.
Today’s Conveyancer founder Chris Harris said: “This is a cottage industry. The figures clearly indicate that many firms are operating at the threshold of profitability. Alternative business structures, the reform of professional indemnity insurance and reductions in panels means that many firms will be considering their future in the field.”
The figures indicate the scope for consolidation in the market, but also that it will take thousands of practices leaving conveyancing to make a major impact on market shares.
A full copy of the 2010 data listing for all firms plus the data each month for 2011, costs £36 plus VAT. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org