Working for and running a legal firm is a business like any other. Solicitors therefore face all the familiar day-to-day niggles and challenges you find in any line of work – endless piles of admin, difficulties with clients and suppliers, technical glitches and so on.
We asked Hook & Partners, a firm of conveyancing solicitors in Essex, to talk through some of the typical day-to-day problems they faced helping people through the legalities of buying and selling houses.
Hold ups with paperwork
One of the biggest frustrations people face when they buy and sell a property is how long everything takes. It gets to us as solicitors, too – we’re dealing with this day in, day out! It has to be said, from a legal perspective, the change of ownership of property is quite a complex process, and it is just in the nature of things that it takes time. We are also having to deal with a lot of different parties – the buyer, the seller, the other party’s representatives, the estate agents, mortgage providers and surveyors.
Paperwork is the biggest bug bear. If we’re representing the buyer, for example, we have to wait for the seller’s solicitor to draft the contracts in the first place. We then have to wait for the mortgage provider to carry out a valuation and forward us the relevant lending documents. If a survey is being carried out (which we strongly advise), surveyors can take their time first of all getting to the property to carry out the survey and then drafting the report. All of this adds up to delays, delays and more delays!
Managing clients’ expectations
We mentioned how frustrating delays in the conveyancing process can be for clients. As their representatives, we are the ones who have to try to keep them calm through the process and assure them that everything will be alright in the end. This might involve fielding the occasional emotional phone call when they fear a lack of movement means the whole thing is about to fall through. It also means we have to be constantly on top of our game in terms of communication, keeping the client fully up-to-date with what is happening and regularly chasing other solicitors, estate agents, surveyors and so on to try to keep everything moving.
This all becomes most difficult when there is a chain involved – when buying one property depends on the seller buying another and so on. If we’re waiting on completion further down the chain before we can move on our client’s deal, things are out of our hands and it becomes a game of patience.
There is a lot to think about as a conveyancing solicitor. When you have several cases open at once, all at different stages on the journey towards completion, all with paperwork to organise and other parties to chase, you have to be smart about how you prioritise your work. As sales move towards completion, you need to focus more time and energy on getting everything sewn up – obviously the main objective is getting contracts signed and keys exchanged. But at the same time, you can’t let other cases drift, otherwise you will quickly have an upset client on your hands.