Conveyancing > Conveyancing Solicitors vs. Licensed Conveyancers

If you’re buying a house, then you’ll have to get through the conveyancing process. And this means you’ll need the services either of a Licensed Conveyancer or a Solicitor. So what’s the difference?

First things first, let’s start with the similarities. Both Licensed Conveyancers and Solicitors are regulated specialists providing the legal work required by both home buyers and home sellers. This principally consists in transferring the legal title to the property between buyer and seller, but they can also handle other property legal work, such as re-mortgaging, ease extensions, transfer of equity and so on. In the UK as a whole, there are around 200 Regulated Licensed Conveyancer firms and approximately 9000 Solicitors practices offering Property Legal Services.

Conveyancers and Conveyancing Solicitors: Key Differences

A licensed conveyancer is a specialist property lawyer focused on property transactions. Whereas, a solicitor is a qualified lawyer who has extensive training and knowledge in many aspects of the law – like tax planning and family law, for instance. Solicitors will generally offer a broader range of legal services, such as a divorce proceedings or taking someone to court. This entails a few fundamental differences between the two, such as:

  • Acting on both sides – conveyancers can act for both the buyer and the seller, which is not ideal for many people. Using separate conveyancers ensures they deal with the sale in your interest and no-one else’s. Solicitors on the other hand are obliged to inform you if they are acting on both sides of the transaction without informing you due to conflict-of-interest rules.
  • Referral Fees – under the SRA Code of Conduct Rule 9, solicitors are required to disclose any referral fee paid out to a marketing or referring agency.
  • Training – solicitors are trained in many different legal fields, ranging from family law to criminal law during a 3/4-year degree course. They also complete a 2 year Legal Practice Course (LPC) and a further 2 years in a Training Contract with a solicitors’ practice. Once they have finished training, they then can choose to specialise in a set field or continue practising in many different areas. Conveyancers have their own set of more specialised qualifications to pass, namely the diploma in conveyancing law and practice. In some cases, solicitors may convert to licensed conveyancers as it allows more commercial freedom.


What do these differences mean in practical terms?

If you’re dealing with a difficult transactions, then there can be advantages to using a solicitor with knowledge in other areas of the law. For example, if the sellers are getting divorced, a solicitor with divorce knowledge would be advantageous to you as the prospective buyer of their property.

However, the downside of using a solicitor is that they are usually more expensive than a conveyancer, due to their higher level of qualifications. They can also be less available as a result of managing lots of different cases – often with tight deadlines – in lots of different areas, not just property transactions. In addition, if your solicitor work in small practices, they may have trouble maintaining continuity of service due to holidays and the like.


Different Regulatory Bodies

Both conveyancers and solicitors are regulated by professional bodies that oversee standards of practice and offer protection for consumers, as well as fostering competition and innovation in the provision of legal services.

Licensed conveyancers are regulated by the CLC (Council of Licensed Conveyors). Solicitors are regulated by the SRA (Solicitors Regulation Authority) and the Law Society. The SRA regulates solicitors and law firms of England and Wales, as well as non-lawyers who are managers or employees of these firms, registered foreign lawyers (RFL) and registered European lawyers (RELs).


Choosing a conveyancer or solicitor

You estate agent will often recommend a local solicitor or conveyancer, generally on a commission basis. A big risk to this path is, obviously, that they recommend the provider who pays the highest commission rather than the person who offers the best service for your needs. It is recommended not to jump straight onto the estate agent’s recommendations. This isn’t to say that these will never be appropriate, just make sure you always do your own research first.

If you’re buying a house, the likelihood is that you have a mortgage. And you should check whether your chosen conveyancing service provider is on your lender’s “panel”. It can substantially speed up the process if the same legal services provider is able to act both for you, the buyer, and for your lender.

If you’re entering the conveyancing process, we wish you swift progress towards possession of your new home. if you have any other conveyancing concerns, check out our related posts on property searches, exchanging contracts, gazumping and stamp duty.