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National Conveyancing Week: Panel managers ‘slowing conveyancers down’

By Monidipa Fouzder >>

(21 March 2023)

Conveyancing solicitors feel they are being impeded in their work by constant calls and emails from panel managers, the first day of a week-long event to improve the profile of conveyancing has revealed.

National Conveyancing Week, organised by The Bold Legal Group, runs until Friday. Panel managers were the subject of an online session yesterday to discuss whether they are a sensible route to obtaining new work.

Property experts on the speaking panel were in favour of panel managers. Paul Clark, senior partner of Hexham firm Humble & Clark Legal, told the event that panel managers and conveyancers have the same problem: ‘If you just convince people what you do for the money you charge, everyone would be happy.’

Clark understood commercially why panel managers are necessary, especially for large estate agents. However, Humble & Clark Legal does not use them. The firm does not want too much in the way of volume work as it would affect service quality, he told the conference.

On what panel managers can bring to the conveyancing sector, Kevin Tunnicliffe, CEO of Sort Group, which provides conveyancing portals for mortgage brokers and estate agents, said: ‘From my side, it’s support. We have never been to a law firm and said “you have to do this, you have to do that”.’

Jo Unwin, senior associate and operations manager of the residential property team at SAS Daniels Solicitors, highlighted the need for a collaborative approach. ‘It should be the same process with someone in the middle to assist the process.’

However, an attendee commenting in the online session’s chat section disagreed, describing panel managers as ‘middle people that do not need to exist’.

Other attendees commenting in the chat section revealed tension in the relationship between conveyancers and panel managers. One solicitor said: ‘It would be interesting to know what training panel managers have. We, as solicitors, seem to be the only profession that get bombarded with calls/emails asking if we are doing our job. It is disappointing when we receive generic requests such as “are the searches in?”, “is the mortgage offer in?”. Receiving searches/mortgage offers does not mean it has been looked at yet. They need to be reviewed, reported on etc yet this does not seem to be appreciated. Every call/email slows us down.’

Another said: ‘A transaction time is not standard, each matter must be on its own merits. Some panels expect updates every seven days (five working days) as a conveyancing the update timeframe on the portals should be seven to 10 working days giving all conveyancers time to get the work done and deal with client expectations.’

One attendee suggested it would be helpful if panel managers, estate agents and brokers were trained to understand what solicitors do and how long things will take. ‘It is not a tick box exercise,’ they said.

(Courtesy: The Law Society Gazette)