Hire a good transporter – or risk getting a bad case of STDs – Property Industry Eye
“Where have all the good lawyers gone?”
As a real estate agent, you have a lot to do right now.
You have to convince buyers that Boris Johnson was only joking that stamp duty should be paid by sellers. You also need to get your salespeople to accept a price that bears no relation to the bullish number they offered two years ago.
Finally, you have to deal with the lawyers.
There are the cheap ones chosen by customers because they “watch every penny”. Alternatively, you are forced to play “Lawyer Roulette” where your panel manager selects the most desperate law firm whose main role seems to be making your life hell.
Either way, when you see any of these names on a sales memo, your dream of offsetting your credit card balance with your commission gets a little lower.
The big question
Where have all the good lawyers gone?
Officers tell us there are more problems with lawyers today than in the past.
While freehold properties are tricky, add a questionable lease and incomplete management pack and you might as well wrap it all up and pitch your new (ish) proptech idea to Lord Sugar on The Apprentice.
We find that we are dealing with law firms whose understanding of anything out of the ordinary can be extremely difficult.
When we are selling and we have a legal issue that needs to be drafted, we often have to do it for other lawyers. Obviously, we can’t charge our customers for these fees, but unless we do the job, the deal won’t go through.
To be clear, this is not a discussion of volume carriers versus high street businesses that promise the benefits of “local expertise”.
Unfortunately, many of those who offer “personalized service” don’t extend to opening at lunchtime or having their customers available after 3pm on Fridays.
What makes a good lawyer?
Of course, what makes a decent lawyer depends on which side of the fence you sit on.
A good lawyer from the point of view of an agent is someone who is available, responsible and can find pragmatic solutions to problems in order to close deals. From a law firm’s perspective, a good lawyer is someone who works 12 hours a day, can handle 150 cases at a time, and not be sued.
A lawyer can be called “bad” by not knowing what he is doing or being slow to respond, and unfortunately, in either case, the outcome for his reputation is not good.
We have seen first hand the level of experience of the lawyers who have been tasked with handling cases.
We interview (and dismiss) a lot of them. We believe this is due to a lack of training, usually because experienced lawyers simply don’t have the time to do it.
The other problem arises when experienced lawyers are just too busy. This is usually due to their business owners signing up for the abject misery of “avocado roulette”.
When forced to handle a high volume of cases, it’s no wonder their service levels hit rock bottom. These people usually end up with the description of “Used to be a good lawyer”.
It’s not just the workload that makes good lawyers go wrong – most law firms are woefully inefficient.
Some of the stories we hear about paper files, ad hoc checklists, and outdated practices are why so many people struggle to provide half-decent service.
What can be done about it?
Law firms need to realize that winning a job at all costs is not a viable long-term business strategy.
Signing up for low-cost crack panel managers is rarely a good idea – prostitutes usually struggle to break out of the cycle of poverty.
Trying to solve this problem by outsourcing the work to a cheaper foreign country runs the risk of suffering from a service-transmitted disease (STD).
If a firm employs decent lawyers, then their owners should start selling their services at the right price.
Higher prices mean lower workloads, which will give experienced lawyers time to supervise and train their colleagues.
Deploying decent technology really helps good lawyers live up to their abilities.
Law firm owners need to stop buying fancy cars and instead invest in technology to make their employees more efficient.
The last word
We have enough on our plates right now to bring buyers and sellers together without suffering from inefficient and inexperienced lawyers who make our whole life a little harder than it should be.
We all have a role to play in eliminating those who put their personal gain before the good of the industry and the dreams of our customers. Check it here dirty roulette
* Peter Ambrose is the founder of independent property transfer company The Partnership, which works closely with real estate agents