The Insiders Guide To Conveyancing Companies

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Traditionally, conveyancing, as with other legal services, could only be carried out by firms of solicitors under the Solicitors Act 1974. In the mid-eighties however, when home ownership among the working classes rose sharply (largely as a result of the introduction the Right to Buy, which gave council tenants the right to buy their homes at a discount), the Government realised that conveyancing services had to be accessible to the masses at reasonable cost and that the way to do this was to increase competition.
This led to the creation of new types of conveyancing companies called licensed conveyancers, which were introduced in the Administration of Justice Act 1985. The first licenses were issued in 1987.
The Legal Services Act 2007 goes further still, by introducing “Alternative Business Structures”, meaning that firms providing legal services, such as conveyancing companies, may be owned by non-lawyers.
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Conveyancing Companies - The Traditional Solicitors Practice

Until the introduction of Licensed Conveyancers, only solicitors could own conveyancing companies and conveyancing services were usually provided by a general practice along with other legal services. As a result of increased demand however there are nor some law firms that are strictly conveyancing companies, in that they do not provide other legal services.

Solicitors are allowed, and always have been allowed, to employ non-lawyers to carry out legal work but all of the owners of the firm (the partners) must be solicitors. This rule was put in place to protect the public as it ensured that only solicitors (who are strictly regulated) would be ultimately responsible for the work done by the firm. Non-lawyers would potentially have less to lose by breaching the rules and so there is the danger they would adopt dubious practices to increase profits. On the other side of the coin, the rule could be unfair to non-lawyers who, although they may have the same level of skills and experience as their qualified colleagues, could never be rewarded with a partnership.


Conveyancing Companies - Licensed Conveyancers

A licensed conveyancer is a type of lawyer who only trains in, and is only permitted to practice conveyancing but who has the same rights as a solicitor as far as conveyancing is concerned. Licensed conveyancers can either work for solicitors or set up their own conveyancing companies. There are two levels of licensed conveyancer, a part license holder and a full license holder. Only full license holders can form their own conveyancing companies.

Some consumers are wary of licensed conveyancers, believing them not to be as strictly regulated, though this is not really the case. In fact, a licensed conveyancer could argue he is a better option than a solicitor. A solicitor is allowed to practice conveyancing even though he may have little or no practical experience, whereas a licensed conveyancer most definitely will be experienced.


Conveyancing Companies - Alternative Business Structures

Alternative Business Structures were introduced by the Legal Services Act 2007, though the part of the legislation that brings them into effect is not yet in force. They allow firms which provide legal services to the public (including conveyancing companies) to be owned by non-lawyers.

There is considerable opposition, with opponents fearing that they will compromise the impartiality of the solicitors who are actually doing the legal work. ABSs will however need to be regulated by a licensing body (not necessarily the SRA or CLC) and the owners will have to pass a “fit and proper persons” test. Alternative Business Structures were a Labour idea about which both the Conservatives and Liberals voiced concern when in opposition therefore it is not clear whether the legislation which brings them into effect will now become law.

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