Solicitor vs. Licensed Conveyancer - What is the Difference?
When buying or selling a property, the legal process can be carried out by either a solicitor or a conveyancer. Is there a difference and which one should you choose?
Qualified legal professionals.
Conveyancing solicitors and licensed conveyancers are both qualified legal professionals that specialise in the legal side of buying and selling property. Solicitors and conveyancers can also deal with other aspects of property legal work, including remortgage, transfer of equity and lease extensions.
Solicitors and conveyancers follow the same conveyancing process when acting for home buyers and sellers. process and procedures. They are both fully regulated and insured.
Are there any differences?
Conveyancing solicitors typically work in a conveyancing department in a solicitors’ practice that offers a broad range of legal services. The solicitor will have received initial training in various legal disciplines before choosing to specialise in conveyancing following.
Licensed Conveyancers will have trained and passed exams specifically in conveyancing. Most licensed conveyancers do not have broader exposure to other areas of law.
Increasing numbers of solicitors are converting to Licensed Conveyancers as migrating to CLC regulation allows them to incorporate as a limited company.
Different regulatory bodies
Solicitors and Licensed Conveyancers practising in England and Wales are regulated by different professional bodies:
- Solicitors are regulated by the SRA (Solicitors Regulation Authority)
- Licensed Conveyancers are regulated by the CLC (Council for Licensed Conveyancers).
Both regulatory bodies are monitored to ensure standards are maintained and consumers are protected - but in fact, there are some differences that may affect you.
Acting for both sides
The CLC allows conveyancers to act on behalf of both the buyer and the within the same property transaction.
This is controversial, as simultaneously representing two parties whose interests may conflict could be problematic.
For a Licensed Conveyancer to act on both sides, the CLC requires ‘informed consent’ from both the buyer and seller. There must also be effective information barriers between the two conveyancers acting for the buyer and seller.
Acting for both sides is quite common. Estate agents often refer buyers and sellers to the same conveyancer.
However, there can be efficiency benefits if a buyer and seller are being handled by the same firm. Handled correctly, this practice enables more efficient communication which can help to speed up a transaction. Handled poorly, it can lead to indiscretions that could compromise either party’s interests.
Solicitors are not allowed to act for both sides of a transaction and will carry out a conflict check to ensure that it does not happen.
Referral fees are commonplace in the property sector. Licensed conveyancers and solicitors routinely pay referral fees to estate agents for the introduction of new clients. There is nothing untoward about this practice which is a way of reducing marketing costs and building business.
However, solicitors are required by their regulator to disclose referral fees to their client, whereas Licensed conveyancers are not.
Lender panel membership
At the time of writing a handful of small mortgage lenders may not accept Licensed Conveyancers to represent them when the buyer is obtaining a mortgage. This is a hangover from a period pre-dating the existence of the CLC and 99% of lenders will work with Licensed Conveyancers.
This should not be a fundamental concern for home buyers. However, ensuring that your chosen solicitor or Licensed Conveyancer is on your chosen lender's panel is critical.
There should be no difference in service
Whether you instruct a conveyancing solicitor or a Licensed Conveyancer, you should expect the same level of service.
Both solicitors and Licensed Conveyancers follow the same process and will handle similar workloads. In theory, they should both offer you the same levels of interaction and contact during the conveyancing process.
It is also worth noting that, whether you choose a solicitor or a conveyancer, you may be allocated a junior member of the firm (a paralegal or assistant). Most are sufficiently experienced and will be overseen by a qualified solicitor or Licensed Conveyancer.
Your next step
If you are buying, selling, remortgaging or transferring equity in a home, we can help you find an expert conveyancing solicitor.
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Frequently asked questions:
- How do I speed up the conveyancing process?
- What documents do I need when selling my home?
- What must a seller disclose when selling a property?
- How to (properly) compare conveyancing quotes
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