So, there’s no doubt about it, that we’re living through extraordinary times and the ‘new normal’ for many of us working in financial services and related sectors, is that it’s remote working, most likely from home.
Our own staff are doing just that and while we are clearly able to continue to provide the same services to our adviser customers, the experience for everyone might feel a little different, at least for a short space of time.
With that being the case, I think it’s important that we try to come at work with a far greater degree of patience and understanding than we might ordinarily have. That’s especially the case when it comes to the solicitors and conveyancers we all rely upon in order to get our cases through to exchange and ultimately completion.
You will no doubt have read about the many challenges that the coronavirus presents to conveyancers at present, especially when many other organisations have staff working from home, when they are trying to work out how self-isolation might impact on the ability to exchange, when they are seeking clarity on all manner of issues including stamp duty payment, registering legal charges, and the like.
Then there’s also the issue of presenting documentation that is acceptable to all others within a transaction. Traditionally, conveyancing has been a ‘wet signature’ endeavour and nothing else, but clearly in these times, it make sense to accept digital submission of the required forms including digital signatures, and we would all like to think there can be a degree of leeway in order to expedite the transaction.
At the same time, what the conveyancing sector can’t do is simply wave a magic wand when it comes to getting clarity around what is (and isn’t) acceptable. Theirs is a legal endeavour and it requires regulatory sign-off as well as clear direction from, for example, Land Registry and/or the government.
I know for a fact that many conveyancers are wanting clarity in a number of areas – as we know the notion of an ‘average’ conveyancing transaction doesn’t really exist. They all tend to come with their own foibles and unique parts, and in order to move things forward in today’s circumstances, we may well need to cut firms some slack in order to get the progress we want.
That said, I know that all our conveyancing firm panel are working extremely hard in order to continue to deliver the services that advisers and their clients want and need; it just might be that they require a day or two extra in order to work through some of the intricacies of each individual case.
What I can say however is that the ability to source and instruct conveyancers through the Broker Conveyancing portal, is the same as it ever was. Our system has not changed and will continue to work so we would certainly urge advisers to keep on accessing the conveyancing opportunity that exists with clients and to ensure they are able to secure representation and have the very best chance of getting their case through within the desired timescale.
We can’t deny that, for (hopefully) a short period of time, our working practices may well shift and all other parties working within the transaction may shift as well. For the most part, and from what I hear from advisers, you’re able to provide a business as usual service to your clients, but we must recognise that the other firms and organisations we rely upon might not be in such a strong position, at least not yet.
This means that we may need to add some extra time into the transaction. It means ensuring clients have realistic expectations about what is manageable and what is not.
And for advisers, covering off the conveyancing needs of their clients, I would also suggest it means continuing to utilise specialist firms within the sector. They have the expertise, the resources and (perhaps most notably) the technology to keep on working and to ensure any disruption is minimal. Trust in their knowledge and the quality of their operation and I am convinced neither you or your clients will be disappointed.
Mark Snape is managing director of Broker Conveyancing