A strong interest in property law, as well as a keen eye for detail are essential for a career in licensed conveyancing

Licensed conveyancers are property law specialists who work on behalf of clients buying or selling property (houses, flats, business premises or land) in England and Wales. As a conveyancer, you will deal with all legal matters, administration, finance and queries involved in a property transaction.

You will process and agree contracts, transfers, mortgages and leases and draw up all the documents that sellers and purchasers must sign in the course of a transaction.

You will also advise clients on the technical content of the documents and their financial implications. You may act on behalf of the vendor or the purchaser, and in certain circumstances for both in the same transaction.

Responsibilities

Typical tasks include:

  • researching information and communicating with clients and others in person, on the phone, by letter or by email;
  • using a computerised case management system, as more and more conveyancing tasks are now being done online;
  • taking instructions from clients;
  • seeking to protect clients' interests at all times, while taking precautions against potential fraud and money laundering;
  • sending terms of engagement and estimates of fees and disbursements;
  • obtaining or checking Land Registry documents or title deeds (if the land is unregistered);
  • drafting or checking sales contracts and agreeing terms with the conveyancer acting for the other party to the transaction;
  • collating and sending or checking supporting legal and financial documents;
  • exchanging contracts and completing the transaction;
  • dealing with all financial aspects of a transaction;
  • if the property is leasehold, obtaining the landlord's agreement to the sale or the change of mortgage and dealing with apportionments of rent and service charges.

Specific tasks for purchase transactions include:

  • carrying out and checking pre-contract searches by checking whether the property is affected by local authority proposals, leases, easements or covenants, mortgages, land tax, susceptibility to flooding or subsidence, or liability for unsound building structures and repairs;
  • receiving and checking mortgage instructions from lenders and undertaking specific tasks required;
  • preparing transfer and mortgage deeds;
  • receiving mortgage funds;
  • paying stamp taxes and dealing with the registration of client and lender with the Land Registry.

Salary

  • Typical starting salaries for trainees or newly qualified conveyancers can range from £16,000 to £20,000.
  • After qualification and with around three years' experience, your salary may range from £25,000 to £50,000.
  • In senior management posts, you can expect to earn between £35,000 and £55,000, with partners or owners of conveyancing firms potentially earning £60,000 or more.

Salaries vary considerably according to status, region and type of employer.

Total earnings for employed conveyancers may be enhanced by commission payments. Large legal firms may offer considerable benefits such as health insurance, contributory pension schemes, gym membership, etc.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

Working hours are typically 37 hours per week, possibly with some extra hours. Some companies are open in the evening or at weekends.

Part-time work and job-sharing are both possible.

What to expect

  • The job is office based and involves liaising with colleagues, clients and other professionals.
  • Self-employment and freelance work are common. Holders of the full Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) licence can set up in practice with substantial experience and subject to successful application.
  • Jobs are available in most towns and cities in England and Wales but there are more licensed conveyancers in some areas of the country than others, particularly in London and the South East.
  • Conveyancing may also be done by a solicitor, paralegal or chartered legal executive (England and Wales). Conveyancing in Scotland is usually dealt with by solicitors. For more information see Solicitor, Scotland or The Law Society of Scotland.
  • Travel within the working day may occasionally be required to visit clients and other property professionals, but overnight absence from home is seldom needed. Overseas work or travel is very unlikely.

Qualifications

Although this area of work is open to all graduates, a degree, HND or foundation degree in one of the following subjects may increase your chances:

  • accounting and finance;
  • business and management;
  • land, estate or property management;
  • law or legal studies;
  • planning;
  • surveying.

To become a licensed conveyancer in England and Wales, you must pass the Council for Licensed Conveyancers - CLC Qualification, which is usually taken while working.

Non-graduate entry to the CLC training and exams is possible as the minimum entry requirements are four GCSE passes (grades A to C), including English, and personal qualities and skills are often more important than the subjects you have studied. However, many licensed conveyancers are qualified solicitors or chartered legal executives.

If you have previously been in financial difficulties or have any criminal convictions, you may be disqualified from entry. For more information contact the CLC.

The availability of trainee positions varies according to the state of the housing market. It may be a good idea to apply speculatively to smaller companies.

Skills

You will need to show:

  • the ability to advise and negotiate effectively;
  • the ability to understand and explain legal technicalities;
  • good report-writing skills;
  • an interest in property law;
  • the ability to work meticulously and accurately within a professional code of conduct;
  • problem-solving skills;
  • an interest in research;
  • numerical ability;
  • discretion and respect for client confidentiality;
  • the ability to work under pressure;
  • basic IT skills.

Work experience

It may be useful to gain some work experience at a solicitors, property developers, building society or bank. Previous experience, particularly as a legal secretary or chartered legal executive, can be advantageous.

Employers

The number of licensed conveyancers registered with the CLC is continually increasing, and many employers want their conveyancers to be regulated by the CLC.

Although it is possible to work in a variety of organisations, the vast majority of first licence holders are to be found in firms of solicitors and property lawyers, with others working for local authorities and property companies.

Local authority conveyancers may be employed in corporate services, planning or legal departments.

Other organisations that employ conveyancers include:

  • banks;
  • building societies;
  • civil service departments.

Most full licence holders work in private practice in their own conveyancing firm with one or two partners, perhaps employing a small team of staff. Others are self-employed working on a freelance or consulting basis.;

Look for job vacancies at:

Professional development

In order to practise, you must pass the Council for Licensed Conveyancers - CLC Qualification. This includes:

  • registering as a student with the CLC;
  • spending at least two years in full-time practical training, working under the supervision of a qualified employer such as a solicitor or fully-qualified conveyancer;
  • passing the CLC examinations.

During the two-year training period, you will study for the CLC examinations, either by part-time study or distance learning. The part-time courses are offered by some colleges of further education and other institutions. A list of accredited institutions and details of the distance learning course can be found on the CLC website.

The course consists of two parts:

  • the foundation course - two subjects which are assessed by assignments and examinations (Introduction to Law and Legal Method, and Introduction to Conveyancing) and two examination subjects (Land Law and Law of Contract);
  • the final course - assignments and examinations on three subjects: Conveyancing Law and Practice, Landlord and Tenant and Accounts.

Most students take three to four years to complete the practical training and exams, although it is possible to do it in two years. Once they have done this, licensed conveyancers become holders of the 'first licence', which allows them to offer services through an employer.

Qualified solicitors, chartered legal executives and law graduates are eligible for exemptions from all of the foundation-level examinations and some of the practical training. All exemptions, however, are dealt with on an individual basis by the CLC and require the submission of documentary evidence.

Career prospects

As a first licence conveyancer, you could progress to take on supervisory responsibilities, perhaps leading a property team of legal and administrative staff. Opportunities for specialisation are limited, but some job advertisements emphasise residential or commercial conveyancing.

Licensed conveyancers can also deal with probate, the legal process that takes place after someone dies. An additional qualification to the existing licence is available for those who wish to do this.

The availability of internal opportunities for career development may depend to a great extent on company size. You may find it advantageous to move jobs regularly if you wish to progress.

There are some opportunities to work as a locum.

After three further consecutive years' experience in qualified employment, you can apply for the full Council for Licensed Conveyancers - CLC Qualification licence, which allows you to become self-employed or enter into partnerships. You can choose to run your own business working from home. The CLC can offer further advice on becoming self-employed as a conveyancer.

Both first and full licence holders are required to undertake periods of continuing professional development (CPD) as stipulated by the CLC. In each year they are licensed, conveyancers must undertake a minimum of six hours' CPD. Twelve hours are required for managers, who must hold professional indemnity insurance and contribute to the CLC compensation fund.

CPD participation is regulated by submission of a training record and may take the form of attendance at seminars and short courses and use of study videos. The CLC website has a list of accredited CPD providers.

It is possible for conveyancers to move into alternative careers, such as:

  • accountancy;
  • finance;
  • insurance;
  • estate agency;
  • civil service roles.

Progression to other careers in law (e.g. solicitor) is also possible with the right qualifications.