Written by Rob Stafford
If the Noughties were the decade of the ‘call centre’ law firm, this one promises to be the time of local law firms.
A recent survey conducted by YouGov has revealed that 77% of all those surveyed prefer the use of a High Street law firm to a national one. This indicates a very real appetite for High Street firms with a focus on service and local knowledge.
With this in mind, we thought we’d provide a run-down of the major benefits of a local service over ‘production line’ conveyancing.
While it might appear obvious, local knowledge is crucial in conveyancing. Want to know about that Section 38 agreement at the end of your street? It stands to reason that your local firm is more likely to know about it, rather than a call centre five counties away.
One of the most infamous cases in the industry is chancel repair landmark Aston Cantlow v Wallbank. This is precisely the kind of situation that local knowledge can help prevent. A diligent and local conveyancer is more likely to be aware of the local parish and the possibility of the purchaser’s property being on former rectorial land. The production line conveyancer may have never set foot in the county, let alone the parish in question. To put it crudely, if you were on a guided tour of a historic city, would you prefer the rough guide or the local with decades’ worth of knowledge?
A Personal Service
In any industry, customers are far more receptive and likely to return when they feel that they have been provided for as an individual. We all like to feel valued and unique. From an early age we’re told we are exactly that. Why should the most important transaction of many clients’ lives be any different?
Too long conveyancing has been characterised as legal ‘grunt work’. a service centred on legal form and expediency. Instead, conveyancers should be recognised for what they are, a guiding hand in what is the most important decision in many lives. The value of familiarity shouldn’t be underestimated. A local firm who understand the situation on the ground, the peculiarities of the local area and, most importantly, the needs of the home buyer, will always hold the edge over a stranger at the end of the phone. Whether it’s being able to drop in for an update on proceedings or simply a cup of tea and a reassuring chat, a more human approach will yield great returns for your firm.
Roots in the Local Community
Local law firms used to offer a ‘cradle to grave service’, all life’s eventualities covered under one roof, from the purchase of newlyweds first home, to passing onto the next generation. As the You Gov survey demonstrates, there is a real appetite for this paternal role from law firms. Why can’t we return to that?
It’s become increasingly clear that the idea of a stranger handling life’s most important transactions sits uncomfortably with most. We are a social species and often just being able to talk something through with someone we know and trust can make all the difference.
Now, more than ever, is the time for law firms to embrace the new technology available to them. The customer of the future is going to be more tech savvy, more aware of the options available to them and consequently more demanding.
The local law firm has a substantial advantage over its large-scale counterpart in this field as well. Small dynamic teams ensure that the use of new technology is nothing like the task it is in a firm with 100 plus staff. The training of one or two members of staff can make all the difference by reaching out in a pro-active way to a new breed of client. Furthermore, the High Street firm is better placed to tailor new technology to each client’s specific needs. Unlike having to adopt the clunky ‘one size fits all’ approach favoured by volume’ based firms.
A Varied Skill Set
The final advantage to the High Street firm is the varied skills that the conveyancer in a local firm brings to the table. With less staff, it’s often a case of ‘all hands to the pump’. Junior conveyancers are given more responsibility earlier in their careers and consequently, they acquire a broad skill-set more quickly. Furthermore, junior staff benefit from working side by side with partners and experienced conveyancers. By the time the juniors are at partner level, this translates to thousands of hours’ experience. The Result is a diligent, learned and highly competent workforce, which can only benefit the client.
Consider the alternative in ‘call centre’ firms; a clear disconnect between partners and juniors, a shallower learning curve for juniors and less broadly skilled staff. This equates to a poorer service for the client.
The law firm needs to reclaim its rightful place along with bank manager and doctor as a pillar of local communities. The High Street law firm is more than just a commercial vessel ,it is a vital helping hand at the most important junctures of life. Let’s return to that!