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

A licensed conveyancer is a qualified, professional property lawyer. In this role, you'll specialise in property law and will work on behalf of clients buying or selling property (houses, flats, business premises or land) in England and Wales. You'll deal with all legal matters, administration, finance and queries involved in a property transaction.

The role involves processing and agreeing mortgage and lease contracts, arranging transfers and handling other documents that sellers must sign when purchasing property. You'll 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

As a licensed conveyancer, you'll need to:

  • research information and communicate with clients and others in person, on the phone, by letter or by email
  • use a computerised case management system, as conveyancing tasks are increasingly being completed online
  • take instructions from clients
  • seek to protect clients' interests at all times, while taking precautions against potential fraud and money laundering
  • send terms of engagement and estimates of fees and disbursements
  • obtain or check Land Registry documents or title deeds (if the land is unregistered)
  • draft or check sales contracts and agree terms with the conveyancer acting for the other party to the transaction
  • collate and send or check supporting legal and financial documents
  • deal with all financial aspects of a transaction
  • exchange contracts and complete the transaction
  • if the property is leasehold, obtain the landlord's agreement to the sale or the change of mortgage and deal 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
  • receive and check mortgage instructions from lenders and undertake specific tasks required
  • prepare transfer and mortgage deeds
  • receive mortgage funds
  • pay stamp taxes and deal 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 £24,000.
  • 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 the potential to earn £60,000 or more as a partner or owner of a conveyancing firm.

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 and gym membership.

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 is common and many experienced conveyancers set up their own practices.
  • 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.
  • You may occasionally need to travel within the working day to visit clients and other property professionals. Overnight absence from home is rarely required and 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. This involves:

  • registering as a student with the CLC
  • completing 1200 hours of practical training, working under the supervision of a qualified employer such as a solicitor or fully-qualified conveyancer
  • passing the Level 4 and Level 6 CLC examinations, which can be studied part time or via distance learning. The Level 4 Diploma can be completed through an apprenticeship scheme.

Full details of the modules involved and a list of accredited institutions and distance learning course providers can be found on the CLC website.

If you complete the Level 4 Diploma, but not the Level 6 Diploma, you're only eligible to work as a conveyancing technician, supporting the work of a fully qualified property lawyer.

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

Most students take three to four years to complete the practical training and exams, although it's possible to do this within two years.

Once you've done this, you can obtain your first licence - allowing you to offer services through an employer.

With additional experience and training you can obtain a manager licence, which will allow you to become self-employed or enter into partnerships.

Skills

You'll 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

Previous work experience gained at a solicitor's, property developers, building society or bank - particularly in the role of a legal secretary or chartered legal executive - can be advantageous, though isn't essential.

However, before you're able to apply for your first qualifying licence to practice as a CLC lawyer, you'll need to complete 1200 hours of practical experience.

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.

The vast majority of first licence holders work in law firms, but it's also possible to work in a variety of other organisations, including:

  • airports
  • banks
  • building societies
  • civil service departments
  • housing associations
  • local authorities - in corporate services, planning or legal departments
  • property development companies
  • railways.

Some experienced conveyancers who have attained the manager licence run their own private conveyancing firm, possibly with one or two partners, and perhaps employing a small team of staff. Others are self-employed working on a freelance or consulting basis.

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Professional development

The first step in your career as a licensed conveyancer is to gain your CLC qualification and obtain your first licence to practice. Once you've done this you can start to build on your experience. 

You can complete an additional qualification in order to deal with probate, the legal process that takes place after someone dies.

With experience in qualified employment, you can apply for the manager licence, enabling you to become self-employed or enter into partnerships, either working from home or in a practice.

Licensed conveyancers are required to undertake periods of continuing professional development (CPD). The CLC stipulates that first licence holders must undertake a minimum of 6 hours' CPD per year, while manager licence holders must complete at least 12 hours. Manager licence holders must also have professional indemnity insurance and contribute to the CLC compensation fund.

Career prospects

Depending on the size of the organisation you work for you may find opportunities for development, or you may need to change jobs.

As a first licence conveyancer, you could progress to take on supervisory responsibilities, perhaps leading a property team of legal and administrative staff. With a manager licence you can set up on your own.

There are also some opportunities to work as a locum.

Alternatively, with additional specific training, you could move into a different but related career, such as that of a:

  • solicitor
  • accountant
  • financial adviser
  • insurance
  • estate agent
  • civil servant.