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November 12, 2020

Lawyer or Conveyancer? What's the difference?

Conveyancing is the process of transferring ownership of land from one person to another,under the terms of a contract for the sale of that land.

That's it!

Every Australian state has different law, forms, regulations, fees, time requirements,protections, jargon and government departments as part of the conveyancing process.

But basically, each state follows the same steps - just the details changes.

Whether you are buying or selling, there is a contract that sets out the terms of the sale. The buyer and seller have obligations and rights under the contract. The conveyancer's job is to make sure you do what you are supposed to do when you are supposed to do it.

Queensland and ACT

Unlike the other Australian states and territories where there are conveyancing companies owned and run by licensed conveyancers, it is illegal in Queensland and the ACT to have conveyancing companies owned by licensed conveyancers. All paid conveyancing work in QLD and the ACT must be done by a law firm. That is the law!

Many law firms in Queensland and the ACT have set up conveyancing companies that are in fact law firms and are treated as law firms. These companies must therefore comply with the rules and regulations of a Legal Profession Act which is administered by the relevant law society. Licensed conveyancers and para-legals can be employed in these law firms run as conveyancing companies, but all work must be supervised by a solicitor.

The bottom line is that in Queensland and the ACT it doesn’t matter at all if you go with a conveyancing company or a law firm, because there is no difference between them. The solicitor/law firm must hold a current practising certificate as well as having professional indemnity insurance.

All Other States and Territories

In NSW,Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, Northern Territory and Tasmania,entities that provide a conveyancing service may be law firms or licensed conveyancers.

Like law firms, licensed conveyancers are able to prepare your documents and offer advice within the scope of the laws regarding conveyancing. They will provide you the services necessary to complete your property transaction including title searches, liaison with financial institutions, contract advice, preparing legal documents, stamping, calculating rates and taxes as well as preparing for and attending settlements.

Licensed conveyancers cannot give legal advice outside the area of conveyancing.

The Australian Institute of Conveyancers (AIC) has divisions in all of these states and territories. They are the peak body representing conveyancing in Australia. Conveyancing entities may apply to become a certified practising conveyancer recognised by the AIC. Certified practising conveyancers would work to the best practice standards as governed by the AIC.

How toPick Your Legal Advisor

You have the right to do your own conveyancing. However, you won’t have a legal practitioner’s or conveyancer’s professional indemnity insurance to protect you if you do something wrong. And you won’t know if something is about to go wrong if you don’t have the knowledge to foresee any issues that may arise and which you should have protected yourself against.

While only Queensland and ACT require a solicitor/law firm to do paid conveyancing,you still have the choice of using a solicitor to complete your conveyance in all other states and territories.

All law firms must comply with the minimum professional standards of their state and territory law society and every licensed conveyancing company will have their own standards. Each must comply with their own rules and recommendations and any legislative regulations. The ethical standards of law firms are higher than those of conveyancers, and the penalties for non-compliance are greater.

Somethings to take in consideration…

  • Business people don’t give away anything that is valuable, especially their time. Be wary of anyone who works for nothing. Would you work for nothing?
  • The best legal advisor will charge reasonable prices because they know how valuable their time and experience is. Experience is earned the hard way and valued. Generally, the inexperienced need to provide an inducement to attract business.
  • Be careful of giveaways that are being used to lure you in, especially if the company is the cheapest to start with or promise to undercut the rest. Quality will always beat quantity.
  • Beware of businesses that offer a low cost first and foremost. These tend to have a high turnover of clients to compensate for their low fees and that means you won’t get as much service as a company that isn’t doing a high turnover and promotes service over cost. Look for service at a reasonable cost. Reasonable means in relation to the experience being offered.
  • Conveyancing is a service industry and this is what you are paying for. There will be times in the conveyancing process where you will want immediate service and that’s a guarantee, but can you be sure you will get it when you want it on your terms, given the conveyancer may be snowed under with a high turnover of files?
  • If you're paying a low fee don’t expect as much personalised service. Often you get the bare necessities. More often than not you won’t get answers to questions or explanations and they will probably not want to meet with you as this will take up their time. Essentially, they will try to spend the least amount of time on your conveyancing transaction as possible because time is money and the more transactions they can do, the more money they can make.

Don’t betaken in by ads for conveyancing companies when they:

  • Say they are your saviour from chaos.
  • Try and convince you that conveyancing is complicated, confusing, intricate, involved and carrying huge financial and time risks if the slightest thing goes wrong.
  • Claim to be good guys.
  • Are giving away something not usually given away and then try and make it sound like those who don’t follow their lead are the bad guys.
  • Put down their competition by calling them dishonest, or accuse them of cutting corners. Truthful advertising talks about positives in self, not negatives in others.
  • Tell you it’s all a bit dramatic and frightening and intend to scare you into using them – these tactics are aimed at first home buyers especially.
  • Leave you feeling afraid or intimidated by the unknown because you don’t know anything, or very little, about conveyancing.