In Queensland, conveyancing work is the sole domain of lawyers. In all other Australian states, lawyers and licensed conveyancers compete for conveyancing work. The primary difference between conveyancers and lawyers is the level of qualifications and training. To obtain an unrestricted practising certificate as an Australian lawyer, a person typically studies a four year Bachelor of Laws degree at university, followed by a one year Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice and two years’ of supervised legal practice. For registration as a conveyancer, a person typically completes a 12 month TAFE course, whilst obtaining 12 months of work experience.
Lawyers are held to the highest professional standards across Australia and are heavily regulated in respect of fees they may charge. Most reputable legal practices are happy to outline their costs by email or telephone and will provide you with a cost disclosure letter upon being retained. Beware of engaging the services of a lawyer practising from home or from a serviced office. It is prudent to engage a law firm with at least two or three lawyers and the financial capacity to maintain a properly staffed, professional office.
Lawyers operate in a competitive market in the conveyancing space. Don’t be afraid to call up and ask for a quote. Make a short-list of prospective legal practices and give them a call – ask questions particularly whether they have quality assurance and whether the people in the law firm handling conveyancing are actually lawyers or are they paralegals or typists. If you’re paying for a lawyer, expect to deal with the lawyer, not support staff. Also avoid lawyers quoting anything less than about $750 – if they’re spending such little time safeguarding your interests, then you can’t afford them! Cut out the middleman – don’t bother using quote sites that simply gouge referral fees from lawyers desperate enough to pay for referrals. Also beware of ‘free’ offers from lawyers – experience suggests that nothing in life comes free!