Licensed Conveyancers – A Serious Risk For Consumers

Posted on November 18, 2008 by | 16 Comments

Peter Mericka B.A., LL.B OPINION
by Peter Mericka B.A., LL.B
Real Estate Consumer Advocate
Real Estate Lawyer
Qualified Practising Conveyancer Victoria
Director Lawyers Real Estate Pty Ltd

View Peter Mericka's profile on LinkedIn

I was motivated to write this article for after I had received a series of emails from a Licensed Conveyancer, Paul Garson of Stonnington Conveyancing. Garson believes that lawyers, who for many years have been the only legitimate conveyancers in the industry, should no longer call themselves “conveyancers”. It seemed to me that Garson had begun to believe his own industry’s propaganda – that through licensing, conveyancers who offer a lesser service and lower levels of consumer safety could now claim to be providing a superior service to that offered by lawyers. The fact of the matter is that conveyancers are a transitory phenomenon, mere middle-persons offering limited services in risky circumstances for cheap prices. The inability of licensed conveyancers to make a positive contribution to the direction of the conveyancing industry in terms of ethics, value for money and consumer protection means that they will always represent a huge risk to those who resort to them.

Introduction – attacked by a conceited conveyancer

I am the principal of Lawyers Conveyancing, and I am a conveyancer as well as a property lawyer. In order to enhance the level of service offered to conveyancing consumers, my firm has gained accreditation as a Legal Best Practice law firm, to the Australian industry standard LAW 9000.

Conveyancing clients who use our services for the first time tend to become lifelong clients, and enjoy the benefits of being able to make contact with a qualified lawyer when they need one, at any time, just by picking up the telephone. Being able to provide a full range of general legal services to our clients gives us a competitive edge, and provides our clients with peace of mind.

Paul Garson - Licensed Conveyancer - Stonnington ConveyancingPaul Garson is the principal of Stonnington Conveyancing, and has recently become a “Licensed Conveyancer”. So proud is Garson with his new status that he felt entitled to attack me because I am not a licensed conveyancer (lawyers are not required to obtain such a licence), and to demand that I cease to use the term “conveyancer” when referring to the mainstay of my business. Here’s how Garson put it…


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  • http:// says:

    In respect to comments by Peter Mericka – “the industry moves on” licenced conveyancers – especially when a licence is obtained by statutory examination, the recipient is possibly endowed with more skill than that of a practitioner at law and or his or her subordinates. Lower costs are a result of competition and should not be alligned to egos.
    With respect Mr Mericka – ” you are full of shit” !

  • Hi Ian,

    Licence “obtained by statutory examination” sure sounds good, and I am sure it will impress many people; but exactly what does that mean Ian?  And how does sitting and passing an examination bring about the amazing transformation “the receipient is possibly endowed with more skill than that of a practitioner at law“?

    The reality is that lower costs are the result of a lowering of standards, service and responsibilities.

    I think we can get to the heart of the issue Ian if I ask you for your response to a very simple question:

    At what point should a conveyancer advise his or her client that the matter has reached a stage where the assistance of lawyer is required?

  • http:// says:

    Peter you have not recognised that not all licenced conveyancers think there lawyers, I have been a conveyancer for many years and I have always told clients that I am not a lawyer and do not expect me to pretend to be a lawyer and to see a lawyer if they have to, and this will not change now that I have a licence because like any really professional conveycer I know the limits.

  • Hi Proud Licensee,

    What prompted me to write this article was the assertion by Paul Garson that licensed conveyancers have now replaced lawyer conveyancers, to the extent that lawyer conveyancers can no longer call themselves “conveyancers”.

    This ridiculous assertion carries with it the equally ridiculous implication that conveyancing services offered by licensed conveyancers are superior to those offered by lawyer conveyancers, when all of the evidence indicates the contrary.

    Every licensed conveyancer will, at some stage, experience a situation where their limited legal expertise will require them to advise their client to seek the assistance of a lawyer. Lawyers do not seek counsel from conveyancers.

    I have no problem with licensed conveyancers continuing to operate on the basis of “cheap and simple”. But clarification is needed when they attempt to pass themselves off as offering services that are actually superior to those offered by lawyer conveyancers.

  • I have received a number of malicious comments from anonymous licensed conveyancers, and of course they have been moderated.

    If any licensed conveyancers would like to contribute to the discussion they are more than welcome to do so, but anonymity is not an option.

    Taking pride in who you are, what you do, and what you have to say is important in discussions of this nature, so do identify yourselves (you can even add a link to your own website and generate link traffic) and take pride in your contribution.

    Remember, transparency and openness increase credibility.

  • http:// says:

    i know you do not want anonymous comments, but i am a conveyancer and i do not want problems. paul garson is just a big mouth and he does not speak for every conveyancer. i often refer clients to solicitors when there are legal problems that are more than i can handle and i get on well with solicitors. i think there is room for everyone and conveyancers do not have to take over solicitors and solicitors do not have to worry about this.

  • Hi Conny,

    I agree with you to some extent, but you must agree that the days of “cheap” conveyancing have passed, and licensed conveyancers cannot compete with lawyer conveyancers other than by falsely claiming to offer a higher level of service.

    A clear indicator that times are getting tough for conveyancers, and the inability of licensed conveyancers to attract clients on their merits, is Scott Goodman’s (Scott Goodman is a licensed conveyancer and the director of Goodman Group Conveyancing) offer to pay referral fees of $150 for each conveyancing matter.

    It’s a pretty sick industry when licensed conveyancers have to resort to this sort thing.

  • http:// says:

    Times are also getting tough for some solicitors in my (conveyancer-free) neck of the woods.

    Look out for a forthcomng Blog posting about one desperate and foolish fellow.

  • http:// says:

    Why have the days of “cheap” converyancing passed?

    The way I see it, the consumer has the choice to go with the cheaper option. Then, as some conveyancers point out here, if the situation isn’t as simple as to be handled in a regular way by a conveyancer, they quite rightly point the consumer to a lawyer to handle any complicated matters.

  • Hi Austin,

    One only has to compare conveyancing prices as between licensed conveyancers and lawyer conveyancers to see that there is very little difference between the two in terms of price. When conveyancers (and DIY kit publishers) compare prices with “lawyers” they usually do so by reference to the large city law firms that offer conveyancing services to their well-heeled existing clients.

    There are no “big end of town” conveyancers – conveyancers offer one service only, and this has always been offered on the basis of being “cheap”.

    Now that conveyancers must be licensed, insured, and satisfy minimum education requirements, they too have the same overheads that local lawyer conveyancers have always had to contend with, but they cannot offer the same level of service, or range of conveyancing-related services.

    The difference in price between a local lawyer and a local conveyancer is now so small that consumer choice is now influenced by other factors.

    But the notion of consumer “choice” is also a phantom. Consumers often make their choices on the basis of advice from estate agents, and estate agents have their own reasons for referring consumers to a particular conveyancer.

    Goodman Group offers to provide 150 reasons for a consumer to be referred to them, rendering client choice in such circumstances a nonsense.

  • http:// says:

    peter i think you miss the point austin is making

    it is because of competition by licensed conveyancers that conveyancing is affordable. if not for conveyancers then the cost would be much higher as was demonstrated in the trade practice report in 1992 where it was noted then that conveyancing was on average 4150 dearer than in S.A. or W.A. and why when it is teh same work?

    without the competition lawyers would revert back to the scale fee that was in in the eighties where they would charge according to the value of the property. How fair was that?

  • Hi Mick,

    I think we need to get a bit of common-sense happening here.  The threat of high legal fees for conveyancing is like the threat of communism – it is regularly trotted out by those who seek to gain something by scaring the daylights out of everyone, but it no longer has any relevance.

    I came into the legal profession when conveyancing cost $250 plus disbursements, and I then moved to $350 all-inclusive.  I now charge $770 all-inclusive for a standard residential conveyancing matter, and my firm, Lawyers Conveyancing is a Best Practice LAW 9000 Quality Endorsed Legal Practice.  So, instead of bleating about the distant past, can we come forward again to the year 2008 and discuss what is happening today?

    On a suburb to suburb basis, what is the difference in fees charged by licensed conveyancers and lawyer conveyancers?  In many cases licensed conveyancers now charge more than lawyer conveyancers (remember, I am not dealing with misleading averages here, I’m talking about suburb to suburb).

    I have pointed out that Scott Goodman of Goodman Group Conveyancing, a non-lawyer licensed conveyancer, is offering to pay referral fees (in my opinion they are better described as “bribes”) of $150 for conveyancing referrals.  This indicates to me that the similarity between licensed conveyancers and lawyer conveyancers in terms of price competition is negligible, and so licensed conveyancers who can offer no breadth to the services they offer, are having to resort to corrupt methods in order to gain clients.

    Corruption reduces choice, and it increases prices.

    Am I the only person who sees this?  Am I the only person who believes that there is something wrong with this?

  • http:// says:

    peter one bad goodman doesnt spoil the rest..

    most good firms charge around your price anyway and its competition that keeps all competant operators around the same price. my point was its when there is no competition that prices escalate. one thing now is that competition is fairer as between conveyancers and lawyers as the playing fields are now similar.

    those paying commissions (psuedo secretly) wont last

  • Hi Mick,

    For goodness’ sake wake up!  Do you really think that Goodman is just “one” who spoils it for the rest?

    The trafficking of clients is rife in the industry.  Read the full post and see my reference to AICVIC, the peak body for conveyancers in Victoria, and their acknowledgement of the need for conveyancers to pay “referral fees”.

    The whole discussion about conveyancers and lawyers has been a fantasy about the good conveyancers busting the monopoly of the bad lawyers.  In fact, the story is one of self-interested unqualified opportunists who, having found that they can no longer compete on the basis of “cheap”, must now resort to corrupt means.  Goodman is simply brazen enough to openly do what the others do in secret.

    If the trafficking in clients were to cease immediately, licensed conveyancers would disappear just as quickly.  And remember, client trafficking is not just a matter of cash payments – it includes sleazy sweetheart relationships with estate agents contrary to the interests of the client.  (Licensed conveyancers don’t seem to realise that the role entails representation, not just a process.)

    So I say again, corruption reduces choice, and it increases prices.  And I ask again, am I the only person who sees this?  Am I the only person who believes that there is something very wrong with this?

  • Mick, I forgot to mention that your suggestion that “the playing fields are now similar” appears to acknowledge that conveyancers had a huge advantage previously, insofar as they required no qualifications, insurance or experience whatsoever in order to open a business, and that this was a major factor in their ability to offer “cheap” conveyancing.

    However, just because conveyancers now have to comply with minimum standards of education and insurance etc. does not make them similar to lawyers.  The need for Paul Garson to suggest that lawyers should not call themselves “conveyancers”, and the need for Goodman to buy clients, are just two indications that licensed conveyancers struggle to demonstrate a reason, apart from being “cheap”, for consumers to resort to them.

    Licensed conveyancers will perpetuate corruption in an industry where such corruption was almost unheard of.  Thus, the quest for “cheap” conveyancing and the breaking of a supposed monopoly has become a very expensive adventure indeed.

  • Hi Mick,

    Your comment at 9.30 am 23 November, 2008 had to be moderated as it was abusive and contained no reference to the discussion. I can understand that you don’t like the points I am making but attacking me for bringing this problem into the open does not advance the discussion.

    If you’d like to submit a comment, please do so, but If you want to attack me or my credibility you will have to identify yourself – and put your own reputation on the line as I do.

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