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Conveyancing Focus Groups

08 January 2015

BACKGROUND

In December 2014 the CLC held separate focus groups of CLC conveyancers and users of conveyancing services. These were held in London and Manchester. The groups were small and not intended to be representative. The intention was to identify some points for further exploration in the areas of:

  • The use and impact of client care letters
  • Effectiveness of signposting clients to the CLC and LeO
  • Expectations of Professional Indemnity Insurance and the CLC’s Compensation Fund

 

SUMMARY OF KEY POINTS AND FOLLOW UP

There was considerable consistency between the groups in Manchester and London in terms of the expectations and concerns of clients and the views of conveyancers.

 

CLIENTS

Client care letter

With the exception of sophisticated clients who reported that they made frequent use of conveyancers, there was very limited understanding of

  • the conveyancing process.
  • what the conveyancer will do and what is the responsibility of the client or another professional in the process.

The client care letter was generally unread or only consulted in the event of a problem arising.

Signposting of complaints

No client recalled being signposted to CLC or LeO unless they had actually raised a complaint with the conveyancer. There was generally low awareness of the ability to complain to the CLC or LeO, but a generally-held assumption that there would be a complaints process.

Expectations of PII and the Compensation Fund

Unsurprisingly, there was very limited awareness of the financial protection arrangements in place for clients of Licensed Conveyancers. However, there was a widely shared expectation that any loss experienced by a client, for whatever reason, would be ‘covered’ in some way.

 

CONVEYANCERS

Client care letter

Conveyancers were resigned to clients not reading the client care letter. Some reported that they took the time to draw their clients’ attention to the most important points face to face or over the phone.

There was a view in one of the conveyancer focus groups that the purpose of the client care letter had diminished to be one of simply protecting the conveyancer’s position. It had become a dump for all caveats and warnings that conveyancer would be able to rely upon later should any problem arise.

Signposting of complaints

All of the conveyancers taking part in the focus groups reported that they signpost their clients to the CLC for complaints about conduct and the Legal Ombudsman for service complaints in the client care letter and at other points during the transaction.

Expectations of PII and the Compensation Fund

There was less discussion of this by the conveyancers groups. The costs of both were regarded as an acceptable cost of doing business. There were some concerns about the PII renewal process which was regarded by some as not enabling shopping around.

Additional support from the CLC

We also explored with the conveyancers what additional support they might like from the CLC as this was an issue that conveyancers had identified in the 2014 Stakeholder Perceptions Audit. At the focus groups, conveyancers mentioned particularly updates on changes to the law and a printed newsletter in addition to the monthly email newsletters.

 

NEXT STEPS

Client care letter

The feedback from conveyancers and clients indicates that the client care letter is not serving its purpose effectively. The profession and we as regulator need to explore different or additional measures that could be taken to ensure that clients are effectively informed about the service the conveyancer will provide and their rights and responsibilities.

  • This will be picked up in the review of the CLC’s Code of Conduct and we will work with consumer organisations to inform that work.
  • The CLC will also publish on its website accessible information for clients about the conveyancing process which will also be available for conveyancers to provide to their clients online and in print.

 

Signposting of complaints

There is clearly considerable work to do to raise awareness of how to complain about services provided by conveyancers. The key here will be ensuring that clients are aware of their options at the point they are researching legal providers and when the need to complain arises as it will be very difficult indeed to gain their attention for this matter at any other point through, for example, general awareness raising with consumers.

  • This will be picked up in the review of the CLC’s Code of Conduct and we will work with consumer organisations to inform that work.
  • The CLC’s own consumer information will be reviewed to ensure that signposting of complaints is effective.
  • We will work with consumer organisations to ensure that the CLC is listed alongside other legal sector regulators.
  • We will review the content on the Legal Choices website for clarity.

 

Expectations of PII and the Compensation Fund

The Operating Framework of the Compensation Fund is being reviewed at time of writing and PII provision and the Master Policy is kept under constant review in the light of experience. 

  • The new Framework will be communicated very clearly on the CLC website and Legal Choices as well as to consumer organisations.
  • We will seek information from conveyancers about their use of PII in the 2015 Annual Regulatory Return to inform future policy.

Additional support from the CLC

There are resource constraints on what support the CLC is able to provide to its regulated community in relation to changes in the law that relate to the sale, purchase and ownership of various types of property. In other branches of the legal profession, this role is carried out by representative bodies.

  • We will continue to provide basic updates on changes to legislation through the CLC’s website and newsletter alongside regulatory issues.
  • We will review the scope for producing a print or downloadable newsletter alongside the monthly email 

 

REPORTING BACK

We will report back on the next steps in this note in the 2015 Annual Report.