What is the difference between a Solicitor and a Licensed Conveyancer?

Conveyancer vs. Solicitor - there are actually a few fundamental differences:

There is often a good degree of confusion as to the difference between a Licensed Conveyancer and a Solicitors.

However, the first point to stress is that both are regulated professionals specialising in the legal work required by home buyers and sellers and in particular the transfer of legal title between 2 parties (buyer and seller).  

They may both also handle other property legal work such as remortgage legal work, lease extensions, transfer of equity etc

Both Licensed Conveyancers and Solicitors are highly competent professionals and there are around 200 Regulated Licensed Conveyancer firms and approximately 9, 000 Solicitors practices offering Property Legal Services and, depending on your situation, you may be advised to chose one or the other.

Conveyancer or Solicitor – Regulatory Differences

Both Licensed conveyancers and Solicitors are regulated by professional bodies that oversee standards of practice and offer protection for consumers,

Licensed Conveyancers are regulated by the CLC (Council of Licensed Conveyancers) who define ‘ licensed conveyancer’ as follows:

 “a specialist property lawyer qualified in all aspects of property law in England and Wales. A licensed conveyancer is also a Commissioner of Oaths and an increasing number are also licensed to offer probate services. ”

Solicitors are Regulated by the SRA (Solicitors Regulation Authority) and the Law Society.

A Conveyancing Solicitor is a Solicitor who has chosen to specialise in property legal work or property law (commercial or residential).

Be careful, whether you choose a Conveyancer or a Solicitor, you may get neither!

It is worth mentioning that many firms employ ‘assistants’ and ‘paralegals’ to handle the process under the supervision of a Conveyancer or Solicitor.

In other words, the legal work may be undertaken by someone without a license!

This is not necessarily cause for panic however, as many paralegals are highly experienced and working with modern case management systems you should be in safe hands.

What is the practical difference between a Conveyancer and Solicitor

In practice there isn't much to distinguish Solicitors from Licensed Conveyancers. In essence, both carry out the legal work. Thus, acting for buyers, sellers and lenders, a licensed conveyancer provides exactly the same service to clients that a solicitor provides.  

However there are a few fundamental differences between Conveyancers and Solicitors:

  • Act on Both Sides - Licensed conveyancers are (and often do) act on both sides of a transaction.  That is to say that they can represent both buyer and seller.  This is one of the most controversial differences as it is argued that one entity cannot possibly represent the interests of 2 parties given that those interests will probably conflict.

    It is easy to see how a Conflict of Interests might arise between a home buyer and seller.
  • Referral Fees – Under the SRA Code of Conduct Rule 9, Solicitors are required, in a similar way to FSA regulated companies, to disclose any referral fee paid out to a marketing or referring agency.  

    Licensed conveyancers are not required to disclose referral fees.
  • Training – Solicitors typically complete a 3 or 4 year degree followed by a 2 year Legal Practice Course (LPC) and finally a 2 year ‘Training Contract’ with a Solicitors practice before qualifying.  Licensed Conveyancers tend to be practical self-improvers who sit exams whilst working in the sector.  

    It is true that some Solicitors do convert to Licensed Conveyancers, often because it allows them more commercial freedom (see point 1 and 2)
  • Multi Disciplines – Solicitors usually work in firms that employ Solicitors specialising in other areas of law.  This means that they can pool on the knowledge of other areas of law if they need to e.g. tax planning, wills, litigation, family law and disputes and so on.  

    This can be a major factor for many clients whose sale or purchase may be linked to other issues.

Conveyancer or Solicitor – Conclusion

Whichever you choose, your interest and property transaction will likely be in safe hands.

As a footnote the Law Society launched the CQS (Conveyancing Quality Scheme) in 2010 and this has added higher levels of client protection for accredited Solicitors.

Fridaysmove recommended Solicitor panel is comprised solely of Solicitors and we ensure that your property transaction is completed by a Solicitor and not an assistant or paralegal.

Why not call us on 033 0660 0286 and we would be happy to give you more information or get an instant Conveyancing Quote online.