In our experience, when it comes to conveyancing solicitors, there are three types.

The first, let’s call Nigel…

Nigel is painstakingly thorough. He likes everything to be in the right box in the right place on the shelf. He will have a PA or a secretary but likes to spend time on his correspondence. The language he will use may tend towards legal jargon, albeit largely to underline experience but, where Nigel comes into his own is when there’s a dispute. Nigel likes disputes. It’s because they present an opportunity to demonstrate knowledge of his field. There’s often no harm in having a legal leviathan on your side but, sometimes, the problem with giants is that they tend to move slowly. Nigel may well enjoy the cut and thrust of legal debate but it can slow the progress of your house sale. Nigel won’t be inclined to pick up a phone to resolve a problem. He’ll want to send letters by post and keep copies in the box file with your name on. After all, it proves he’s worth his fee – which tends to be on the high side. If you’re in no hurry, you like a stickler for detail and you don’t mind paying top dollar, Nigel’s your man. Just hope he doesn’t line up against another Nigel; the debate can be endless.

The second, let’s call Giles…

Giles is slick. There’s no other word for him. He may be newer to the game but he’s done the training and knows the score. In fact he thinks he knows it well enough to take a few shortcuts. Giles might not bother with a PA as it keeps costs down; instead he seems be almost welded to his smartphone which he’ll answer anywhere – in a meeting, on the train, on his car hands-free. He’s an email man and not one for letters – which is probably just as well because Giles will rarely be in the office. Instead, Giles likes to network and enjoys the hunt for new clients just as much as working for them. Indeed, for Giles, acquisition is the prime objective. After all he needs as many clients as he can get to help pay off the credit card bill and the payments on the smart Mercedes. Giles will be fast; he’ll be confident – as long as your sale is straightforward. But, if there are any complications, Giles may struggle. It’s may not be because he lacks knowledge. It may not be because an issue is beyond his experience. It may be simply that Giles’s constant quest for clients leaves him overstretched when it comes to protracted negotiations. If you’re on a budget and you’re not anticipating problems, Giles could well be your man. If you’re selling an older property, a leasehold home or something listed, maybe not.

The third let’s call Sally (although it could equally be Robert or Geoff or whatever name you prefer) …

Sally may not be particularly high-profile. It’s not because she doesn’t know her job; it’s just she tends to work below the radar. She’s not a partner in a large firm or recognised as an energetic new kid on the block. She’s just quietly done her own thing for years, winning new clients largely through personal recommendation. She’s thorough too; perhaps not as pedantic as Nigel – but not averse to phone calls rather than letters if it helps to smooth the process of buying or selling a home. She’s more than qualified to represent you in the event of a problem but will inform and consult you on your options first rather than making arbitrary decisions on your behalf. She’s unlikely to be brow-beaten in a legal dispute but doesn’t need victory at all costs. Speed isn’t the priority for Sally either. She simply sees her job as smoothing the progression to completion and exchange as practically as possible – and recognises that may sometimes mean a little compromise along the way. Sally probably won’t be as cheap as Giles; her fees may even be closer to Nigel’s. The difference will be that you’ll probably hear from her more frequently and you may be more involved in the process. It’s not for everyone of course; some buyers and sellers actually prefer to take a back seat. But, if you like a little personal control and you’re prepared for a little compromise for the sake of expediency when you’re selling your home, you probably need to find a Sally.

We’ll all probably only use a conveyancing solicitor no more than two or three times in our lives so it can be hard to establish if the one you’re considering is a Giles, a Nigel or a Sally. Personal recommendations from friends or online reviews are often all we have to go on.

But, at least you now have some caricatures to base your choice upon. All we can suggest is that you Google a few names, make some phone calls and perhaps keep our “pen characters” in mind …


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