Choosing High Street Solicitor or Licensed Conveyancer

In most areas of the law, a person has to be a solicitor or barrister to practice on his or her own. Anyone can carry out legal work in the employment of a solicitor (though not all legal work) but only solicitors and barristers can own their own firms or be partners in law firms (under recent developments, a Legal Executive can also be a partner but at least one of the other partners must be a solicitor).

The situation in conveyancing however is different. The Administration of Justice Act 1985 introduced a new type of lawyer called a Licensed Conveyancer. A Licensed Conveyancer can do all the things that a solicitor can do in terms of conveyancing, including setting up his own practice. But is a licensed conveyancer just as good as a more traditional, high street solicitor?

Advantages of Licensed Conveyancers

A licensed conveyancer specialises in conveyancing. Whereas conveyancing forms only a part of the training to become a solicitor, it is all that a licensed conveyancer will study before qualifying. Furthermore, once qualified a solicitor is entitled to charge for conveyancing work even if he has little or no practical experience. On the other hand, if you employ a licensed conveyancer who has been practising for 10 years you know he has 10 years’ conveyancing experience.

As conveyancing is all a licensed conveyancer concentrates on, firms tend to do a high volume of conveyancing transactions and therefore to have advanced systems in place which will allow them to progress transactions more quickly and safely. The high volume approach also allows them to keep fees low.

Disadvantages of Licensed Conveyancers

Sometimes when doing a conveyancing transaction, you might require advice on another area of law, such as wills, trusts, matrimonial or tax law. Although licensed conveyancers are now permitted, after undergoing additional training, to practice wills and probate not all do and they certainly cannot legally advise on other areas.

A multi-discipline high street solicitors’ firm on the other hand will often be able to advise you on these other areas, albeit probably for an additional fee.

Licensed conveyancers tend to be more “automated”. This is done to streamline the conveyancing process and in a typical transaction it works well but these heavily regulated systems often don’t cope well with anything which is out of the ordinary or more complex and this can lead to the reverse effect, that is delays and higher cost.

Should I Choose a Licensed Conveyancer or High Street Solicitor?

Both should do the job perfectly adequately but considering all of the above, if you believe your proposed transaction is fairly straightforward then you might save money and time instructing a licensed conveyancer. If however you think it might be a little more complicated or if you want advice on other areas of the law besides conveyancing, think about instructing a high street solicitor.

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