Solicitor or Conveyancer – what’s the difference and which do I choose?

Prospective clients often ask what’s the difference between a Solicitor and a Licensed Conveyancer?

In NSW conveyancing was traditionally undertaken by Solicitors and the cost of such work was charged according to a pre-determined scale based on a percentage of the value of the property. In 1992 legislation was passed which enabled conveyancing work to be also undertaken by Licensed Conveyancers. The introduction of Licensed Conveyancers has seen that the cost of conveyancing services reduce significantly.

Licensed Conveyancers and Solicitors must hold Professional Indemnity Insurance and comply with a Professional Code of Conduct. Licensed Conveyancers are required to belong to an Industry body known as the Institute of Conveyancers (www.aicnsw.com.au) and Solicitors belong to an Industry body known as the Law Society of New South Wales (www.lawsociety.com.au).

Below are a few points of difference:-

Licensed Conveyancers:-

• Only specialise in ‘real property’ related law known as conveyancing.

• Must have completed a minimum 2 years study at tertiary level on ‘real property’ law.

• Must have at least 2 years supervised practical experience in conveyancing before they can apply for a conveyancing licence. Conveyancing licences are issued and administered by the NSW Office of Fair Trading.

• In NSW a Licensed Conveyancer is just as qualified as a Solicitor to undertake the legal work involved in a conveyancing transaction.

• The majority of Licensed Conveyancers are self-employed and run their own business. This means that you are likely to be dealing with the Principal of the conveyancing business. A Licensed Conveyancer can also work in a legal office.

• Often based in the Suburbs and there is likely to be a Licensed Conveyancer in your local area. Some Licensed Conveyancers offer flexible appointment times or a mobile service.

• The cost of services offered by a Licenced Conveyancer are generally ‘fixed fee’ and considered cheaper than that offered by a Solicitor.

• If a transaction becomes litigious or is beyond the scope of what is considered conveyancing work under the Conveyancers Licensing Act 2003 then a Licensed Conveyancer must refer the transaction to a Solicitor for assistance.

Conveyancing Solicitors:-

• Solicitors can practice in many areas of law including conveyancing and can be involved in transactions which require their attendance at Court.

• A Solicitor undertakes 6 months study in relation to ‘real property’ law during their law degree and ‘conveyancing’ is an optional elective. No practical training in conveyancing is required once a Solicitor is admitted to practice law.

• Solicitors often call themselves Conveyancers.

• Solicitors often have the assistance of a law clerk, secretary or Licensed Conveyancer to complete the conveyancing transaction on their behalf.

• Can often to be located in the City CBD or other major business districts rather than suburbs and don’t tend to offer flexible appointment times or a mobile service.

• A Solicitor may charge you by the hour rather than a fixed professional fee.

• If the transaction becomes litigious then a Solicitor may have the expertise to handle the conveyancing transaction without the need to refer it to other legal practitioner.

In summary, more people are now using the services of a Licensed Conveyancer than a Solicitor as they tend to be more price competitive and easily contactable.