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Jean-Yves Gilg

Editor, Solicitors Journal

No conveyancer is an island

No conveyancer is an island


Rob Hailstone on the challenges facing today's property lawyers

When I was kindly asked to write a guest foreword for the Solicitors Journal property supplement, I was given a long list of topics that would be covered in it and I was told that 500 words was all the space available to me. I am glad my space was limited and more space was allotted to the very relevant and helpful articles contained in this supplement.

I have worked in this business (apologies to those of you who don’t like that word) for over 40 years and I now work full time monitoring and reporting on as many property and conveyancing-related matters as I can. In fact, the challenges for property lawyers are so great and so large in number that I am currently looking to recruit a Mini Me to help with my task.

The point I am making is that I have never known so many issues to be thrown at property lawyers, at the same time, ever.

I accept that we have always had to keep up to date with the latest judgments and so forth, but matters like fraud, cybercrime, and conveyancing portals were virtually unheard of. There is no doubt that the pressure put on conveyancers and conveyancing firms is at an all-time high.

The business of conveyancing is being threatened, and I mean threatened, on many fronts at the same time. Those threats take on different guises: the possible privatisation of the Land Registry, the current consultation on the Land Registry taking over the responsibility for local land charges, the review of and consultation on the Land Registration Act 2002, and the government’s ‘A Better Deal: boosting competition to bring down bills for families and firms’ policy paper.

If property lawyers haven’t already woken up and smelt the coffee with statements like ‘The government wants to inject innovation into the process of home buying, ensuring it is modernised and provides consumers with different – and potentially quicker, simpler, and cheaper – ways to buy and sell a home’ contained in the ‘Better Deal’ document, they never will.

Now is the time for all lawyers to work together and, when necessary, fight together. The phrase often used when trying to get lawyers to act as one, ‘like herding cats’, has to go by the wayside.

However, as well as firms working together, it is important for colleagues within the same firm to work together. All too often it is clear that one person knows something important when another doesn’t. Not sharing information is tantamount to actually withholding information, especially when it comes to fraud alerts and cybercrime matters. Make sure you sit and talk with your colleagues regularly, not just about property but about issues affecting the legal profession as a whole, and make sure you share information that is relevant to everyone, not just you.

Remember, you are not an island and prevention is better than cure – and a lot less expensive and stressful. SJ

Rob Hailstone is founder of Bold Legal Group