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Conveyancers feel most threatened by ABSs

28 September 2010

A large majority of conveyancing lawyers, 73 per cent, believe that client loyalty will not protect them from the threats posed by Tesco law, a survey seen by Solicitors Journal has found.

In contrast, almost two thirds of commercial lawyers believe that client loyalty will protect them from losing business when the first ABSs open for business in October 2011.

In a poll of over 300 solicitors this month, referral network Contact Law found that 57 per cent of commercial lawyers said that two thirds of their clients had been with them for more than five years, compared with only 20 per cent of conveyancers.

“Conveyancers are clearly the least convinced that client loyalty will protect them from the big changes coming,” Dan Watkins, director of Contact Law, said. “This almost certainly reflects the more standardised nature of their work, which very rarely requires a face-to-face meeting and can therefore be more easily replicated by new entrants into the market.

“It’s probably not surprising that commercial lawyers are the most confident about their clients’ loyalty. They feel that the specialist, personal nature of much of the work they carry out will help them retain their clients as the landscape changes in the years ahead.”

More than half of the family solicitors in the survey, 56 per cent, said they were concerned that client loyalty would not shield them from the impact of Tesco law.

Most family lawyers said six out of ten of their clients had been with them for less than 12 months, compared to a fifth of conveyancers and only seven per cent of commercial lawyers.

Watkins said the fact that most family lawyers said their clients had been with them for less than a year reflected their low level of repeat business.

“This reliance on new, rather than repeat, business means that they are right be cautious about the extent to which customer loyalty will protect them from the competitive challenge that ABSs will bring.”

However, family solicitors regarded their clients as more loyal than their colleagues in other departments, with a fifth of family solicitors awarding their clients the top grade for loyalty on a scale of one to five.

In a separate development, 20 of the country’s largest conveyancers have set up a body called The Conveyancing Association, in response both to restrictions on lenders’ panels and the threat posed by ABSs.

The firms involved include Eversheds, Shoosmiths, Irwin Mitchell, Barnetts, Ashfords and Optima Legal.

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Conveyancing Local government