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Conveyancing shortage remains despite property sales slowdown - warning

Property market activity has slowed but conveyancers are still dealing with backlogs which has taken their average caseload to the second highest level per quarter since 2011.

Search Acumen’s latest Conveyancing Market Tracker has found the average property law firm handled 84 cases during the first quarter of 2023.

This is an increase of 9% on the previous quarter and the second highest average caseload per quarter since the software firm started keeping records in 2011.


While the first quarter figures actually represent a 12% decrease year-on-year, reflecting a slower housing market, Search Acumen’s analysis shows the average firm is handling more than double the number of cases each quarter than it was to a decade ago, when the average quarterly caseload per firm stood at just 40.  

Over the past decade, the number of active property law firms has fallen by 8% from 4,402 to 4,045, Search Acumen said.

During the same time period, the average number of cases per quarter has rocketed by 93% from 176,110 to 339,346.

While active firm numbers have now recovered to pre-pandemic levels, increasing by 2% from 3,961 in the first quarter of 2019 to 4,045 in the first three months of 2023, this rise falls far short of enabling firms to keep pace with the scale of long-term growth in caseloads, Search Acumen said.

Andy Sommerville, director at Search Acumen, said: “Even though market activity has slowed in the current economic climate, processing backlogs create a compounding effect, meaning caseloads for property lawyers still remain high by historic standards. This brings about a paradox in that law firms remain incredibly busy almost regardless of wider market conditions.

“Law firms, along with Land Registry and the tech sector, have made great strides in adopting and implementing new technologies to tackle historic backlogs and speed up the process for future transactions. This is having an impact, but more is needed given the sheer scale of the task at hand.

“We are amongst the first in the sector to integrate large language models into our property data and insight platform for clients because generative AI offers huge potential to make transactions more efficient from start to finish. We know firms are starting to engage with this exciting technology, but it is adoption of these innovations at scale that is needed to really move the needle.”


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