If you have used a firm of solicitors for a house purchase, and all went well, then the chances are that high that you will call upon the same firm for your next move. After all, it makes sense to stay with the people that looked after you last time, the ones who took time to explain everything in detail, that sat you down with a cup of coffee and made you feel completely at ease. And yet many people find that their experience the second time around is very different.
Most people are not going to be moving home very often, so there are long gaps in between using legal services with any specific firm. Long enough gaps to see major changes to how a firm operates.
In days gone by, conveyancing solicitors would hold their positions for decades, building up a reputation and a friendship with clients who would come back again and again to see them. However, many of these ‘Old Guard’ solicitors are retiring from the legal scene to see their posts taken by paralegals that represent ‘corporate brand values’ rather than having any personal philosophy about client care.
It is no wonder therefore that when you return to the same law firm ten years later; you receive a very different level of service.
So if previous experience is no longer a guide to how you will be treated, what should house buyers be basing their decisions on? Is it now price driven?
Well, to reduce the price, some law firms hand property work over to staff with no qualifications and little or no experience. This means the work can be done at a superficially attractive price. If you think about it, though, a house sale or purchase is, for most people, the single most expensive transaction they deal with during their life.
Does a cheaper conveyancing cost come before peace of mind that you actually own the house, that ramblers don’t have a right to walk through your kitchen or that a new road is not going to be built across the front lawn, especially when the cost of using a quality assured lawyer is usually less than £100 more than using a trainee with no experience?
To help consumers be assured of a quality legal service when buying or selling property, the Law Society, which represents all solicitors in England and Wales, introduced a Conveyancing Quality Standard last year. To qualify, firms had to pass a rigorous audit with all staff having to meet high competency standards. McKinnells was the first firm in Lincoln to achieve this quality mark. If when buying eggs, most people will look for the lion mark as a sign of quality. If you want a quality property service, look for the CQS mark.