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Choosing solicitors

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Like with everything related to your property transaction, there are hundreds or thousands of businesses that would welcome the chance to take some of your money and provide you with a service. As ever, the ball is in your court.

Here are some of the factors which we consider to be the most important when weighing up your options:



Cost is important to most people. The difference in basic fees can run into hundreds of pounds, which is no trifling amount. Conveyancing costs are often very competitive, so it can be worth shopping around. Please remember that it is not always a good idea just to blindly plumb for the cheapest that you can find. It is possible that they will have the best work processes and the most efficient staff, minimising their costs and are willing to pass some of that back to you the customer. On the other hand, they may not charge very much because they don't offer a very good service. Before you commission them, have a conversation with them and make an informed, rather than a hasty decision.

Availability and location
If your solicitor is off on holiday the week of your move and isn't there when something goes drastically wrong at the last minute, you might become very dissatisfied to say the least. Try to find out if there are any periods for which they are likely to be away, and who will handle your work when they are not there.

Nowadays, it is perfectly possible for your conveyancing work to be done from almost anywhere in the country. All the searches, and document exchanges that solicitors have to carry out can be done adequately by fax, e-mail, post and overnight document exchange (d/x). If you live in an area where costs are high, it can be worth hiring a conveyancer from somewhere else in the country where overheads are lower and so are the corresponding fees.

If you are in a real hurry, and every hour saved is vital, then it is probably worth going for a local solicitor. It may cut a few days here and there off the process in terms of postage, and you can always pop in and hurry them along (although they may not thank you for it!).

Communication skills

  • Do they listen?
  • Do you get on well with them?
  • Do they come across as having an urgency to get the job done?

Often, a personal recommendation from a trusted friend, family member or colleague can be a good way of choosing prospective solicitors. It shouldn't be the only factor in your decision but they will always warn you if they had anything to complain about. Remember too though, that the good or bad experience of one person does not guarantee a good or bad experience for someone else.

Keeping in mind the factors that have just been discussed, it is worth considering the options open to you:

The family solicitors
The family solicitor can offer a great service. You know them, they know you, and if you have a good relationship then you should feel happy trusting them to get the job done. However, this is not always the case. Some firms thrive off family business and people's lack of motivation to hunt around for competitive deals. To some of them it can be a very cheap way of getting business. Don't automatically instruct anyone, unless you are sure that they are the right people for the job and have the necessary expertise. Another thing to bear in mind is that if you take a recommendation and then feel unhappy or worse, aggrieved by the service, then you may feel awkward complaining or pursuing your grievance further. One reason that this might happen is because conveyancing work is by no means the most profitable work that a solicitor can perform, so they might not give it the priority that a specialist could.

Specialist conveyancers
Licensed conveyancers offer skills in residential property, including the purchase of freehold and leasehold property, excellent working knowledge of leases, and the transfer of interests in domestic property. You may find that larger law firms have a specialist conveyancing arm that deals specifically with business of this nature.

Agent or lender recommendation
Often, estate agents, mortgage brokers and building societies have their own conveyancers and will offer a special deal as part of the package they offer. They should never require that you use their selected firm, and if they do you should complain. Sometimes lenders or estate agents have a financial incentive to recommend one particular firm, which is perfectly legal but means they don't necessarily have your best interests at heart.

There are plenty of solicitor firms that advertise on the web, many of which can give you an online quote or an e-mail quote. Before long you will be able to conduct most of the conveyancing process electronically, which should make it even cheaper! Find a good proportion of the online solicitors in the SiteFinder directory.

Solicitor's regional directory
This directory lists the law firms in your area, along with the type of work they specialise in. You can find one at any library and most Citizens advice bureaux.

Law society public enquiry line
(0870 606 6575) This service will offer you the names of up to three solicitors in your area.

ConnectingLegal offer a free searchable database of any legal professional throughout the UK - check it out in SiteFinder.

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