The referral scheme is modelled on Hambro Countrywide's 24-hour telephone conveyancing operation, which can process thousands of transactions every month. It will operate in about 60 per cent of Arun's 130 offices throughout the south east of England.
Arun said Eversheds and Shoosmiths had both agreed to join the scheme, although a spokesman at Shoosmiths would say only that it was one of a number of options the firm was looking at.
Kevin Doolan, a partner at Eversheds, confirmed that the firm would be running volume conveyancing for Arun from its Manchester office. He added that many estate agent chains were developing similar schemes.
Eversheds has also been working for the past two months with Woolwich Property Services on “Premier Move” – a pilot project in Hampshire and south London which provides pre-sale surveys and title checks for house sellers.
Richard Sawtell, a spokesman for Hambros, which also runs its conveyancing operation with Eversheds and Shoosmiths, said he was not concerned by the firms teaming up with other estate agents. “Our agreement was never envisaged as an exclusive arrangement,” he said.
In July, Ward & Co, Arun's agents in Kent, launched a scheme in which conveyancing was referred to four local solicitors and one licensed conveyancer who, in return, agreed to a new “customer service protocol”, opening late into the evening and all day on Saturday.
Paul Rooney, Arun's managing director, said the Ward & Co scheme was “working well” and could operate side by side with volume conveyancing.
However, the announcement will be bad news for high street conveyancers who are struggling to cope with the competition posed by volume conveyancers and who have been hit by massive hikes in Solicitors Indemnity Fund contributions.