Write to: The Editor, The Lawyer, 50 Poland Street, London W1V 4AX, Fax 0171-734 0534
The more I consider the John Edge conveyancing fee initiative the more I think it is misconceived. The backlash has already started and it will further tarnish the image of the profession.
Over the past five years I have grossed, on average, £80,000pa from residential property conveyancing. To do that my volume of work was on occasion, perhaps, too high. Ninety five per cent of my work was refer introduced via estate agents, banks, building societies and brokers etc. If I had been able to charge the level of fees that Mr Edge is proposing my average annual gross fees would have been around £270,000. With respect to my own abilities that sum seems excessive.
I feel an efficient conveyancer with a good secretary, support staff and modern systems should try to gross at least £120,000 pa, enough to pay everyone well. Assuming that six completions a week is a safe yet busy workload, that figure could be achieved by charging £350 for a sale and £400 for a purchase for a normal domestic conveyancing. To realise £120,000pa based on Mr Edge's fee scale you would have to complete less than four matters each week. He is trying to ensure that every firm in the country is in profit from its conveyancing work in a very poor market.
My suggested fee level would mean only the more efficient proactive firms would survive while the public pays a fair price for its work.
There cannot be many firms who do not need to increase their conveyancing fees. I therefore propose that on 1 January 1996 every firm in the country (licensed conveyancers included) bite the bullet and increase fees by £100 per transaction. Competition should remain the same as the difference being charged by all firms will remain the same. It could not be classed as a cartel as prices have not been set or fixed at any particular level. All l am trying to do is what the unions do, the public and private sector do, and the Government do each year – negotiate a pay rise. Once this has been achieved then every effort must be made to charge the lenders a reasonable fee for the work carried out on their behalf. Fees then will start to reach a healthy level.
If you agree that this fee increase is fair and is a realistic way of enforcing it and would like to support the idea write to me. All letters will be passed on to the Law Society. If all firms in the country unite on this issue then, and only then, will a fee increase follow that will be fair to all parties.
2 Dinham Mews
Exeter EX4 4EF.