Death of the High Street hits local solicitors

Over the past twelve months, the number of solicitors and conveyancers handling cases fell by 14% from 5302 (Jan 2011) to 4558 (Dec 2011), while the number of conveyancing transactions rose as fewer firms handled more cases each. Until last year, the number of firms traditionally tracked the number of cases closely.

The most recently released data for December shows a fall of 55 firms advising in the last month of the year alone, while the number of cases increased by 2415.

Consumers’ flight to specialists is shown clearly as the proportion of the market handled by the top 10 firms rose from 4.7% to 7.7% of all cases between 2009 and 2011.

The trends reflect the growth of specialist conveyancing firms offering consumers better service and faster completions, increases in the cost of professional indemnity insurance deterring soliticitors who only handle a few cases per year**, and the contraction of lender panels including those of HSBC and Barclays.

Mark Montgomery, Commercial Director of 1st Property Lawyers said,

“Customers always vote with their feet and the collapse of high street conveyancing is no different. The majority of high street solicitors typically only deal with a handful of conveyancing cases a year and so are less expert and the whole process often takes longer and is more costly. Consumers have decided they want a better service and will go elsewhere to get it.

“Modern specialist firms are dedicated to conveyancing so their work can be done more effectively and more efficiently meaning transaction times can be greatly reduced. Electronic document scanning and smartphone updates also allow customers to keep up to date with their transaction 24 hours a day, keeping them in the picture. Conveyancers who are unable to provide this will go the same way as the village blacksmith did when cars replaced horses.”

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2 thoughts on “Death of the High Street hits local solicitors

  1. TheAdvisory.co.uk

    The only thing keeping high street conveyancing solicitors in business is the fact that the general public are still suspicious about instructing a conveyancing firm found on the web. This as with all things web based will change in time. The younger generation tend not to think twice about choosing a professional service online. The cost savings are clear and I’m pretty sure that choosing your conveyancing solicitor online will be the norm in a few years.

  2. Richard O'Toole

    Thank you 1st Property Lawyers for your ‘unbiased insight’ into the future of conveyancing. As a property professional I have some experience of dealing with the modern approach and I beg to differ with this somewhat cynical advertisement. In my view there will always be a demand for a local solicitor. Local knowledge of a development or estate can save enormous amounts of time by avoiding reams of unnecessary and often naive enquiries. In my experience the ability to visit a solicitor at least once during the process is incredibly important to clients and the convenience of an accessible office is undeniable.
    Whilst your statistics make for compelling reading the ‘consumers flight to specialists’ is simply a reflection of certain lenders removing the ability for a customer to choose their solicitor. Instead some lenders will only allow an application to proceed on the basis that their chosen ‘specialist conveyancing companies’ are instructed. In my view this is a backwards step and if this is the beginning of the death of the local solicitor it will be as a result of a push off the cliff by lending institutions who feel that their needs supersede those of their customers.

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