Communication – an essential tool and more important than ever in a post COVID world
30 September 2022
Birketts’ Brendan Cawley explains the importance of communication to bring conveyancing back to an even keel and why it is the key to success.
Over the past few years, I think all would agree that the property sector has undergone some exceptional pressures, which have, without reprieve, tested the endurance and arguably the patience of anyone working in this field across the country. COVID-19 has impacted processes and ways of working that have largely remained unaltered through the decades and has, in many ways, forced adaptations to our entire way of working, fast tracking procedures we could have only imagined a few years ago.
Having said this, there is one simple constant. One crucial element to any successful transaction and that is communication.
In a market which shows little sign of slowing down, conveyancing practices are busier than ever. As a direct contrast to the property crash of 2008, recruitment of qualified and non-qualified personnel has dramatically increased. However, with estate agents reporting the length of an overall conveyancing transaction taking up to 16/17 weeks on average, we need to be asking what steps can be taken now to bring things back on to an even keel.
In such a buoyant market, when time is so very precious and expectations are so high, it is often the case that client service and communication, which should go hand in hand, are sacrificed. With the Legal Ombudsman reporting one in four complaints received are about Residential Conveyancers, the evidence seems clear. While these statistics sound startling, in reality they have, for the main, remained unchanged for several years. However, it is a statistic that we should be conscious of. And as many complaints are rarely about a Conveyancers competence and often about a lack of communication, it is firmly within our capabilities to make signification strides to change this.
Managing ourselves and our clients and applying excellent communication is key to unlocking a more successful conveyancing experience. Positively engaging with a client at the outset of a transaction will create a bond of trust that will continue through until completion, resonating in the future with those clients returning.
It should not be assumed that the conveyancing process is one clients feel naturally engaged with. Indeed, in most cases, handing the keys over as soon as the file is open is conceivably the expectation of most clients. For this reason, we must engage the client and manage them under our duty of care from the outset and yes, some hand holding along the way should be expected and promoted. For while we may think that we are doing a solid job with the utmost professionalism and ticking every technical box, we must develop a deeper appreciation for our clients vulnerabilities and an understanding of them. Managing expectations in relation to timelines go hand in hand with providing substantial and meaningful updates and on a regular basis. Adopting this approach creates a confidence the client has with their lawyer to conduct the transaction with efficiency. The assurance of knowing any small concern they may have will be met with the answering of a phone call or the response to an email in a timely manner sounds like a minimum expectation but is so often overseen, when crucially it is how we shall be remembered and ultimately how our businesses will grow.
As lawyers, we must consider how we can change the ways our clients wish to be communicated with. The onslaught of COVID-19 itself brought about significant changes that forced our hand in how we conduct ourselves, firmly propelling a proverbial wedge between face-to-face meetings and business development. This was a time when we had no choice but to rely so heavily upon technology to support our attempts at communication, however what an opportunity to really test our communication skills and ourselves. Many communication forums such as Microsoft Teams and WebEx, are now part of our everyday life. We have come such a long way to change our communication habits in such a short time, and we have learned and adapted, alongside our clients and colleagues (although we still manage to mute ourselves on occasion!)
So what more can we do to be better communicators? Developing an appreciation for and recognising the part our professional colleagues play in a transaction is key. Being able to develop strong working relationships with mortgage brokers, estate agents and working together can unleash huge potential on service delivery.
I have personally taken away from the pandemic just how fragile we are as a society if we do not communicate effectively. Whomever it was that said, “knowledge is power” was absolutely correct, however for me, what is even more important is that we also see communication as the key to success.
The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at September 2022.