Legal Secretaries are a crucial but sometimes overlooked part of the conveyancing process, as they perform a number of different roles which contribute towards the smooth running and ultimate success of the project.
The main role of a Legal Secretary in this context is to provide Conveyancers or Property Solicitors/Fee Earners with support in the legal aspects of a property purchase process. Depending on the complexity of the purchase, the structure of the firm, the checks that are required, and the skills and/ or experience of the Legal Secretary, their role can vary from providing basic office or administrative support to offering more in-depth co-ordination role acting as the “right-hand man” to the Conveyancer. Sometimes the Legal Secretary is even the first point of contact for the clients involved in the process.
This area of law is included in The Institute of Legal Secretaries and PAs’ Legal Secretary Diploma, and it provides a solid base on which to begin or advance a career as a Legal Secretary in a conveyancing department of a law firm.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the main aspects in which the Legal Secretary is likely to be involved.
Fulfilling administrative tasks
The process of purchasing a property in the UK comes complete with a vast array of paperwork, documentation and administration, most of which must legally be carried out in order to ensure the viability of the purchase process. Conveyancers are legal professionals who draw up and check contracts, mortgage offers, settlement statements and other legal documents; they analyse and verify the checks that must take place on a property prior to a transfer of ownership.
A Legal Secretary often compiles, checks and summarises the information gathered in these areas in order to support the Conveyancer in reporting back to the client prior to the final confirmation of the purchase. As part of this, there usually are a lot of exchanges of emails and faxes, incoming and outgoing telephone calls, and photocopying and scanning to be done in the collation of the information and to provide the Conveyancer with the information required in order to fulfil his or her own role.
Liaising with clients
There are many different stakeholders involved in a property purchase process, including the buyer, the seller, both parties’ solicitors and estate agents, local government bodies and councils, and builders and tradespeople, to name but a few. Good Legal Secretaries are able to liaise with all of these individuals in order to manage expectations in relation to timescales, process and outcomes, and they often spend a good proportion of their time taking phone calls, answering queries, and requesting and receiving information from these parties. This role is valuable as it frees up the Conveyancer to focus on the job at hand, whilst also keeping everybody up to date with the progress of the purchase process and identifying potential obstacles to nip problems in the bud early on.
Supporting conveyancing searches
Carrying out the mandatory searches on properties is a time-consuming yet essential part of a property purchase, and Legal Secretaries are often quite heavily involved in gathering this information and chasing the relevant parties where required, prior to passing the information to the Conveyancer to finalise the contracts. Such searches can involve aspects such as access rights to the property, the type and quality of land that the property is built on, and any future plans or planning permission required for the local area, and they can have a big impact on whether or not the buyer of the property chooses to go ahead with the purchase or not.
If this article has whetted your appetite to study conveyancing law and processes in more detail, feel free to check out the courses on offer through The Institute of Legal Secretaries and PAs.