Licensed Conveyancers Are Not Welcome in Queensland! (Or the A.C.T.)

Posted on September 8, 2010 by | 18 Comments

Tim O'Dwyer M.A., LL.B OPINION
by Tim O’Dwyer M.A., LL.B
Solicitor
Consumer Advocate
watchdog@argonautlegal.com.au

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The Queensland Law Society has happily informed its solicitor members that the Queensland Government does not intend to allow licensed conveyancers to practise in the Sunshine State.


No matter that many solicitors here have long disguised themselves as conveyancers, and conduct their conveyancing practices under imaginative, less-than-imaginative and less-than-professional business names where the words “conveyancing’ or “conveyancers” feature prominently. Consider these crass examples: Affordable Conveyancing, Aussie Conveyancing, River City Conveyancing, Ownit Conveyancing, Charter Conveyancing, Conveyancing Essentials, Conveyancing Now, Conveyancing Only, CSM Conveyancing, CCL Conveyancing, Results Conveyancing, Statewide Conveyancing, Queensland Conveyancing Professionals, Conveyancing On The Coast, Harcourts Conveyancing Services and … wait for it … The Conveyancing Shop.Conveyancing Services


Nevertheless the Law Society welcomed the advice it received from the Government and sent this good-news email to solicitors:



“Recent advice from the Queensland Treasurer, Andrew Fraser, as the State Government Minister responsible for the National Licensing System (NLS) for Specified Occupations, confirms the Queensland Government is not required to, and does not intend to, license conveyancers or recognise licences issued in other jurisdictions under COAG agreements for national occupational licensing.


State Government advice is that it also does not support revisiting the current position in Queensland regarding conveyancers’ practice.


This follows the raising of the Queensland Law Society’s concerns with the Government that parties in other states had been lobbying the National Licensing Taskforce and others, for the introduction of conveyancers, or the right of conveyancers to practise, in Queensland as a part of the COAG reforms.


In his advice, the Treasurer said, “…the Queensland Government previously considered whether to license conveyancers as part of the national competition policy review of the legal profession legislation. It was decided not to license conveyancers in Queensland and not to allow licensed conveyancers from other jurisdictions to operate in the State.”


“While under the Competition Principles Agreement, Queensland must review legislation that imposes a restriction on competition at least once every 10 years, the Queensland Government does not support the implementation of the NLS being used to reopen this issue.”


On behalf of our members, we welcome this response as it is both good for the legal profession, and also for consumers, in that it affords them adequate levels of protection when purchasing conveyancing services.”


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18 Comments

  • http:// says:

    After I provided a sneak preview of this post to jounalist mate, Peter Cameron, at the Gold Coast Bulletin, he very quickly produced this caustic column:

    “LAWYERS AT LITTLE RISK OF DESTITUTION

    Property markets may be in disarray but never under-estimate the legal profession’s survival skills.

    The Bligh Government is adamant conveyancing will remain with lawyers come hell or high water.

    Queensland joins the ACT as the only jurisdictions which insist on lawyers supervising all property transctions. But wait, there is more.

    Queensland will not even recognize converyancing licences from other states, despite COAG agreements. Treasurer Andrew Fraser, the minister responsible in Queensland, confirmed the status quo.

    The so-called ‘consumer protection’ is all very well. But the legal eagles have boosted their wine cellars plentifully for doing little on property transactions for many years. In most practices, clerks do all the conveyancing yakka before the solicitor runs the pencil over the finished dcuments.

    ‘Mexicans’ arriving from interstate seeking cheaper conveyancing fall into the trap of heading off to ‘conveyancing’ firms. Often these are legal firms disguising themselves as ‘no frills’ conveyancers.

    With falling sales volumes and lower first-home buyer commitments the conveyancing competition is likely to hot up.

    Coast property valuations have dropped 15 percent this year and to rub salt into the investment woulds some banks have reduced the loan maximum on the discounted valuations from 80 to 70 per cent.

    This may account for the fact that some Gold Coast legal companies are “selling off” their conveyancing to “no frills’ firms in return for referrals in personal injury litigation.

    Treasurer Fraser, a legal eagle himself, may have taken the view that there was not a lot of point in opening the conveyancing business to non-solicitors. All the best ‘conveyancing’ trade names in Queensland were taken!”

  • http:// says:

    Tim you have to be joking you are a consumer advocate yet are rejoicing in maintaining a monopoly. competition policy introduced way back in paul keating days has seen greater competition in conveyancing in all other states. finally victoria even 10 years behind NSW brought in licensing. In SA and WA conveyancers have been around since torrens title was first introduced. In fact when Sir Robert Torrens first introduced his title registration system guess who complained and said it wouldnt work? the lawyers….so he introduced the profession of conveyancers and in SA both conveyancers and lawyers have got along over 150 years. So when the Trade practices commison looked at the price of conveyancing 1n 1992 why was conveyancing the cheapest is SA ? Competition.

    Have a look in the UK where para legals do the conveyancing… its all on the web.

    I am surprised that your consumer advocacy passion falls away when it affects your own pocket.

    But then Queensland is always a little different. Say hello to Bob Katter and lets bring back guns too!!!!

  • David, the reality is that conveyancers do nothing to break down the lawyer monopoly over conveyancing; they simply seek to join it.

    Consumers in Victoria have gained nothing by the introduction of licensed conveyancers, but they have lost a great deal.

    Client trafficking is not only rife, but is openly practised.  (See “Goodman Group Conveyancing Bribe Payments“).

    Client-dumping is a brand new problem for consumers (See “Licensed Conveyancers – Client Dumping“).

    Things have changed in the 150 years since Torrens, with disclosure requirements and myriad other statutory rights, obligations and regulations to be dealt with.  When the wheels fall off it is the lawyer who is called in to assist, often when the matter has been allowed to get to the point that it becomes expensive to put right.  Conveyancing is no longer the simple paper-shuffling process Torrens envisaged; rather, it has become a specialist area of law.

    Licensed conveyancers will not last long, as they market themselves on the sole basis of “cheap conveyancing”.  As the race to the bottom gets closer to the bottom, standards fall, consumer complaints increase and PI insurance claims rise, the market will right itself and conveyancers will become the option of last resort.

    Queensland is preventing this painful circular journey by preventing non-lawyers from offering low-grade, limited and risky conveyancing services.

    If consumers are to be encouraged to save money on real estate transactions the focus should not be on finding cheap legal assistance, but by slicing into the massive commissions demanded by that other group of lay-persons who dabble in legal transactions – the real estate agents and buyer advocates.

  • http:// says:

    peter

    go and see south australia and learn form their 150 years experience there is a lot more to both conveyancing and estate agents industries than your pretty narrow negative sensationalism  on the few bad apples in the bunch.

    if its so specialist how come its worked so well in south australia and why havent they legislated conveyancers out of the work..Do you know they also handle business sales?

    the price difference between conveyancers and lawyers is not all that different in fact your price on you web page is is the average if not lower than most of the reputable firms.  So why arent you charging for this specialist knowledge?

    its called competition isnt that why you compete as a real estate agent also to give consumers a choice?

    if its good for the goose?

  • David,

    We regularly hear the conveyancing lobby bleating about “150 years of conveyancers in South Australia” as though that is the start and finish of the debate.

    The introduction of licensed conveyancers in other states is a debacle.  The sole reason for their infiltrating the legal services markets of other states is that conveyancer groups wanted “a piece of the action”, not because consumers were demanding lower conveyancing costs.

    Look at the reality of conveyancing costs.  Consumers can save a few hundred bucks by having an non-lawyer attend to a basic, trouble-free conveyancing transaction.  Big deal.

    That same consumer will then spend megabucks on real estate agency commissions, and blow the meagre savings made on the conveyancing transaction.  And if things go wrong, and a lawyer is needed anyway, the legal costs are increased to cover the cost of fixing the mess the conveyancer made, and then getting the matter finished.

    Your arguments along the lines of “give consumers a choice” and “if its good for the goose” take the matter nowhere.

    Jill Ludwell, President of the Conveyancers Association made an excellent suggestion to conveyancers when she advised them to open their own incorporated legal practices in Queensland.  This model gives consumers the best protection as well as giving licensed conveyancers an opportunity to run a conveyancing business under the supervision of a qualified legal practitioner.

    For more on this, read the article I wrote for the Australian newspaper:

    Paid referrals distort market in conveyancing

  • http:// says:

    So now you think conveyancers should go to queensland and be part of a business structure with a lawyer? so how does that help competition? what work would the supervising solicitor do?

    and I dont agree there is two hundred bucks difference more like fifty to one hundred between teh main players ring around you might see its more of a level playing field than you think.

    I suggest you read the competition principals to inform yourself of the reason why NSW TAS and Vic were obliged to bring in licensing your arguement and your start and finish arguement is nonsensical. If only lawyers can do it which is what you and Tim are trotting out how is it that SA can do it and successfully for so long its the same work no matter which state.

  • David,

    I think you’ve just killed your own argument.

    If there is only a $50 saving for consumers who use a conveyancer instead of a lawyer is it in the interests of Queenslanders to spend millions on introducing a separate regulation system for conveyancers?

    Simpler for would-be conveyancers to open ILPs, and operate under the existing system. That keeps everyone happy, and it is certainly a cheaper option for the Queensland taxpayer.

  • http:// says:

    peter are you that dumb?

    maybe a conveyancer licensed in any other REAL state of australia in the 21st century may want to provide their expert services without a lawyer (monkey ) on their back. why cant you and dinosaur Tim who cant write any responses see that maybe some competition could be good for qld.? Why should a conveyancer have to open an ILP that requires a lawyer to be involved? why cant they operate by themsleves with appropriate qualifications as in every other state in the rest of australia or is Qld not part of it. come on Tim say something useful and relevant pls its 2010 not a 1970 monopoly.

    Peter how do you figure its millions anyway and please respond why your fees are similar to conveyancers or do you just dodge that one as well?

    do you disagree that there is only $50 difference in the main between lawyers and conveyancers?

  • David,

    Read through your own comments again, and consider the reasoning, the writing and the interpersonal skills that have gone into them.  Do you really believe that consumers want you representing them?

    This is not about what conveyancers want, and it’s not about giving conveyancers a chance.  It’s about the consumer.

    If consumers are going to save no more than $50 on a conveyancing transaction it would be a great waste of taxpayer resources for a government to build a regulatory system just to give conveyancers an opportunity to make money in Queensland.

    You do see that don’t you?  The ILP is safe and simple way for conveyancers to become involved in Queensland conveyancing.

  • David,

    The Salvation Army’s new conveyancing business will be operating on the law firm model.  See “Salvos Legal’s poor man’s lawyer nears fruition“.

    It’s the safest and most cost effective way to ensure high quality at low cost.

  • http:// says:

    Thank you Peter and Tim for anwersing my questions

  • http:// says:

    Yes David you are right not one answer just self promotion I don’t think Tim wants to say anything just keep a false monopoly. Let the consumers say not the lawyers nor their union!

  • Hi Julie,

    Do you really believe that consumers in Queensland expect their government to spend megabucks just so that you can open a conveyancing business that may or may not save them $50, in order to give you the opportunity to make money by offering a lesser service than is already available through the legal profession?

    Justify that to consumers if you can Julie.

  • http:// says:

    Meanwhile, this report has just come in from South Australia:

    “The Office of Consumer and Business Affairs (OCBA) is warning conveyancers of their legal duty to declare any relevant interests on properties they deal with, following successful disciplinary action in the District Court.
    Today Judge Wayne Chivell officially reprimanded Bernard Ignatius Flood and fined him $2000 as a result of Mr Flood acting unlawfully and negligently in his practice as a conveyancer.
    Mr. Flood has operated a conveyancing business in Mount Gambier but the court was told that as well as carrying on business as a conveyancer, he bought and sold residential and commercial properties for investment purposes. He did so as director and shareholder of a number of companies.
    The matter came to OCBA’s attention during investigations into another issue, and the court heard that on three occasions, when acting as conveyancer for both the purchaser and vendor in a transaction, Mr. Flood also had a pecuniary interest in the properties being sold.
    This arose because a company of which he was director and shareholder was the purchaser of the property on each occasion.
    The court was told that despite the conflicts of interest, Mr. Flood continued to act for both parties to the transaction, which, as is clear from the Regulations, he could not do.
    It heard the defendant also acted negligently in the course of conducting his business as a conveyancer.
    This arose from his breach of fiduciary obligations to a vendor in failing to disclose that he had a pecuniary interest in the property that was being sold.
    In imposing penalty today, Judge Chivell said a registered conveyancer should not have “divided loyalties”:
    “It is vital that conveyancers meet high ethical standards, that they be aware of their professional responsibilities, that their office systems and methods be such that conflicts of interest such as the ones involved here be avoided and that necessary disclosures to clients be full and frank.”
    The Commissioner for Consumer and Business Affairs, David Green said the case highlights the clear need for transparency in such business dealings and the consequences of failing to do so.
    Details on the obligations of registered conveyancers in South Australia can be found on the OCBA website (www.ocba.sa.gov.au). To report concerns about suspect conveyancers, people can call OCBA on 8204 9777 or 131 882 for regional callers.”

  • http:// says:

    Peter Thats why you need to read the national competition policy agreement between the states and the commonwealth. Under the agreement the states received huge funding to remove restictive monopolies. the money they get will exceed the cost. And dont you think the state Government here is recovering any costs they might have had in conforming to the competition policy for conveyancers due to the licence fees most of uspay for two licences and also the interest earnt off trust accounts now goes to the propety fund. I dont agree its a lesser service even Tim says above;

    “In most practices, clerks do all the conveyancing yakka before the solicitor runs the pencil over the finished dcuments”

  • Hi Julie,

    You’re ignoring the common-sense issue here. There is supposed to be a benefit for consumers when a new system is introduced in the name of “competition policy”. How do consumers benefit when they may (and it’s only a “may”) save no more than $50 on a conveyancing transaction, but taxpayers have to fund a whole new bureaucracy?

    It’s like allowing conveyancers to enter the egg production market in the name of competition, and setting up a whole new system to ensure health, safety and animal protection standards.

    It’s not about “giving conveyancers a go”. It’s about consumer benefits.

    The argument that clerks do the conveyancing in a legal practice is also a nonsense argument. This issue is one of responsibility. You need to understand that if the clerk makes a mistake it is the lawyer who carries the can, and whose PI insurance must pay out. Thus, there is an incentive for the lawyer to choose good staff, to train them, and to supervise them. This is absent when non-lawyer conveyancers provide cheap unsupervised services.

  • http:// says:

    In any case, it was journalist Peter Cameron who wrote:

    “In most practices, clerks do all the conveyancing yakka before the solicitor runs the pencil over the finished dcuments”

  • http:// says:

    As an owner of one of the “crassly” named practices in QLD I can assure Tim that had this been the 1970s I would have opened a partnership under my own name. However with the coming of the internet, and its associated marketing, ILPs and only wanting to do conveyancing work wy should I be called Smith and Smith to launguish on the 45th page of google? If you believe it is crass to market then I look forward to you blogging about the crime of website SEO in the near future to your blog on how your lack of internet marketing or a website protects the consumer.

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