The Legal Ombudsman has published their, “second thematic report, which looks at residential conveyancing complaints and their causes.” The narrative likely to build around this report is that conveyancing factories risk damaging service (Legal Futures).
In truth the report is a weak piece of work. It does not identify the causes of residential complaints in any meaningful sense. We get a few stories (case studies) from actual complaints and some speculation from the Legal Ombudsman as to causes. This does not amount to an evidence based analysis of the causes of the quality problems in the conveyancing market. I’d expect to see some breakdown of the prevalance of problems by factories and ‘non-factories’ and a comparison of that prevalance against some analysis of the relative dominance of both sectors in the market. We get neither and are entitled to have a better undertsanding of what the basis of this speculation is.
Nor are the case studies particularly plausible indicators that volume is a problem. The case studies tend to relate to problems around charging fixed fees which turn out not to be fixed at all. This could just as easily be a problem in ‘non-factory’ providers. For it to be related to the high volume providers would suggest that they systematically misell their conveyancing services, intentionally or negligently; a very serious allegation potentially of fraud which would merit concerted action. It will be interesting to hear what plans the LeO and/or the SRA/CLC has to deal with this.
That’s not to say the Ombudsman is wrong about factories. He may be right. We are just no further forward on the published information. Equally, pressure on fees is likely to impact on quality but that pressure is felt across all conveyancing firms, not just factories.
LeO is crucially placed to collect and monitor data which would show which sectors give rise to problems and what the causes are. I look forward to the day when they do that.