The days of conveyancing being the domain of thousands of small high street legal firms are numbered and as it becomes a commoditised service, larger conveyancing firms will win the battle for market share.
The issue is economics. As with most industrial processes, the drivers for success are efficiency, productivity, quality assurance and cost reduction. These factors don’t only require big investments in technology, training and process re-engineering, but also high volumes of business to make the sums add up.
Small local firms dealing with comparatively low volumes of conveyancing work will find it hard to compete in a world where cost and efficiency are the deciding factors. I’m not saying high street conveyancing firms will disappear but they will struggle.
I know some legal firms reading this will cry foul. They will argue that there will always be clients who are willing to pay a premium for a premium service and will stay loyal to their local solicitors. I don’t agree.
Apathy may rule among a small number of clients but they won’t provide a basis on which to build a business. For the majority of home owners, legal expenses are a necessary evil and if they can get work done cheaper elsewhere with a guarantee of turnaround times and quality ass-urance, they will vote with their feet.
Lawyers must face facts. Conveyancing is a commodity service and any lawyer who thinks they can continue to demand a premium price without adding value are kidding themselves.
The move towards electronic trading and e-conveyancing means conveyancers have to integrate into the wider housing transaction process where everyone in the chain can see what’s going on.
Gone are the days when lawyers could complete deals in their own time – now they either provide performance guarantees of face the consequences.
As with car manufacturing, this process of industrialisation delivers benefits. It ensures quality standards, drives down costs and guarantees a higher standard of service for everyone. It’s easy to see local legal firms through rose-tinted glasses and mourn their decline but the reality is they have had it too good for too long. The pendulum is swinging in favour of consumers.
Should brokers be concerned about relationships they have with local law firms? Not at all, but they must be aware of the alternatives. Treating customers fairly means finding them the best deals and not lining pockets as a result of cosy reciprocal arrangements with local law firms. The revolution is coming, like it or not.