Changing world for Locums

I very recently read an article in the magazine for the Chartered Institute of legal executives where three or four recruitment consultants were discussing the current market and positioning of locums in the current climate.

Having spent some 38 years in the profession during which time I have occasionally acted as a locum until the last three years when I have been continuously employed as one, I feel reasonably qualified to make some comments of my own with regard to legal locums.

I suspect that the image that many employers (I prefer to call on them clients) have a rather “dusty” view of locums viewing them as usually semi retired and just out to make a bit of pin money.

It is a changing world out there and nothing like that could be further from the truth.

Most locums entering the market these days and certainly those that are established are highly professional and have up to date IT and management skills in addition to a high level of skill in their own particular discipline.

They must be totally adaptable and able to integrate quickly and effectively with such systems and staff as they may find in whatever assignment they have undertaken.

If any lawyer is contemplating acting as a locum either on the temporary short or long-term basis or to make a career/business of locuming, then they will need the above qualities in spades but equally importantly, they will need to be mobile. Work is not always found of your own doorstep and the locum may well need to travel some distance to assignments or even take local accommodation while that assignment is undertaken.

Anyone hoping to make a career/business out of being a locum should consider very carefully whether they are likely to obtain work. Acquaintances and contacts within the profession always useful and no opportunity should be in this to spread the word.

An effective website is essential as is a mail out campaign.

A word of caution here, however. Would-be locums should not place a heavy reliance on recruitment consultancies/agencies to find work.

Many recruitment consultancies do not have a dedicated locum consultant or section and unfortunately very few recruiters have an understanding of their own clients needs so far as a locum is concerned and indeed of locum work themselves. I suspect that many recruiters regard locums as “damaged goods” (I have seen one use that expression in an article)

Locum assignments can vary significantly in reality from the job spec appearing in an advertisement or described by a recruiter.


Farewell Michael Coogan

Hurrah, Michael Coogan is moving on from the CML to pastures new. Practising conveyancers will no longer have to put up with the pointless but no doubt career building sound bites  they have had to endure from this individual who, in truth has made no real significant impact on his own industry and has sought to cast aspersions on ours, blaming the many for the failings of the few.

Let’s start with his masthead comment on

“Revolution is happening to conveyancing on the high street, and 2011 is the year everything changes. I hope solicitors are ready. But are they?” Michael Coogan, Director General CML (twitter 14th Jan 2011)

What does that mean? The inference is clearly that solicitors are falling behind in some respect but does he expand on his theme? No he continues allow drops of professional poison to fall on the legal professions head such as

“We believe ………. the Law Society ………… will require resources and rigour to stop scrupulous and incompetent practitioners operating in the legal profession”

(CML 2010 annual report)

That puts you in your place LS…………….must do better. As for all you incompetent practitioners out there, well………………

”many lenders are likely to require CQS accreditation as a minimum requirement for panel entry.”

(CML 2010 annual report)

 “the lenders’ body had worked closely with the Law Society as it developed the scheme, to ensure conveyancing standards are improved for consumers and lenders alike.”

(Law Society Gazette April 2010)

Let no-one forget that one of the biggest mortgage lender failures, Northern Rock happened on his watch. Who is he to teach lawyers? He rarely misses an opportunity to lecture them.

Ooh I forgot. He was called to the bar but only practiced for 3 years before attaining the cloistered world of the Consumer Association, GLC and a succession of quango type jobs before his current exalted position.

He believes that mortgage fraud is perpetrated significantly by conveyancers but fails to look a little more closely at members of his own organization and the still dubious sales techniques of some of their intermediaries.

Good luck with the new job Michael, don’t bother to write…………………..

Back to the future, the search for real lawyers………………………….

A long long time ago in a small country town far from here at a time when the currency was pounds, shillings and pence and Euro meant nothing, when £1.00 bought 4 gallons of petrol and DFS did NOT have a sale I started my legal career………………….

Assistant to the managing clerk . The whole experience was a bit like a training contract on steroids because I had to do everything and anything, not just for a few short months but for the next seven years all the time striving to become a Fellow of the Institute of Legal Executives.

I had a workload which included preparing and filing court document, checking wills, attending registrars chambers, taking instructions from old lags currently in custody at the local nick, holding the hands of tearful petitioners whose husband’s failings were far less heinous than my own and attending court with my principal or counsel. In short, the whole shooting match of work that a small market town provincial solicitor would take on in those days.

So it was until the then boom of the late seventies caused my then principal to ask me what I knew about conveyancing. Well, I had been taught how to do it in theory but he was very busy and this was how the firm made a great deal of money (through scale fees!)

I said I’d drop my divorce,crime & civil litigation files for the time being and help out with the conveyancing. I never looked back. Well I didn’t have the chance, the course was set for the rest of my career, Conveyancing Conveyancing Conveyancing.

The times had changed everyone entering the legal profession had to be a specialist and the old fashion general practitioners were swept away by firms with their specialist departments” which they trumpeted from their internet sites.

The old days had gone forever……….anyone coming into the legal profession had to make some serious choices at a very early stage. You chose your discipline and that was it, course set for the rest of your career. Sure, you could change at a later stage but you’d pay the cost of your own re-training and no-one would hire you for that job because, even as a lawyer with 10 years under your belt, you didn’t have sufficient experience in that particular field. You’ve sold your soul to your last companies’ store.

But soft………..what light through yonder window breaks?

Job ads are starting to appear in legal journal seeking (Shock horror) Conveyancers with family experience Company commercial and civil litigation, Family and private client, Private client with Company commercial. Rounded lawyers with general practice experience.

Where are they to be found? Certainly very very few will have cut their teeth over the last few years, the old ones are now retired or cannot remember their computer log-ins so no-one will hire them.

They may be out there somewhere but it will be like the search for Spock………

Law Society CQS Update


I very recently attended a CPD course and the opening speaker was none other that Paul Rose, the assistant chair of the law Soc conveyancing committee.

Needless to say he was extolling the virtues of the CQS scheme (well he would wouldn’t he?)


But, throughout his speech (for that was what it was it was hardly educational) He said virtually nothing to encourage the assembled mass of conveyancers about how much it was going to help them increase their business.

He made it very clear that Lenders were very much in favour of it because it would help reduce mortgage fraud which is at epic proportions. I’m sure he’s right about this but should we, as a profession be taking most of the blame for this. I don’t have figures but I’ll bet that a very small proportion of lost mortgage millions is down to a veritable army of corrupt lawyers. Sure there have been some but I’ll bet a small number have done some big numbers.

He drew attention to foreign lawyers that had been permitted to practice in England & Wales and appeared to be suggesting that a number of them were to blame. Well, whose fault is that? Who gives them practising certificates?


Mortgage fraud, in many cases, I would suggest, starts long before lawyers are even involved…


It seems to me that Lenders should look more to the front line in terms of beefing up vetting procedures for brokers, financial consultants and dare I say it, there own staff when it comes to mortgage applications. Lawyers are being made the scapegoat for their own leaky procedures.

In summary, the CQS scheme has very little to do with promoting quality conveyancing and is more about demonstrating to lenders how we can be good policemen to catch the crooks because they can’t.

The Conveyancing Association……….who are they and what are their plans?

“Conveyancers need a collective voice to represent their views in the market – there has been no active, pragmatic, representative body specifically speaking up for conveyancers as a whole – until now.

Change is inevitable in our marketplace. We all have to embrace change, but through firms working together as the Conveyancing Association we can have real influence over the future of conveyancing.

Membership of the Conveyancing Association will help raise your firm’s profile within the industry, with potential clients and key decision makers.  Our collegiate approach means that all members have a direct say in the future of the Association, and you can share market experiences with a likeminded group of innovative businesses.”

So say the Conveyancers Association, but have you heard of them and who exactly are they?

Turns out that their chairman is none other than good old Eddie Goldsmith, you know, of Goldsmith Williams, the guys that pay out a Kings ransom in referral fees. He said so!!

Doubtless the average small firm Conveyancer would have a lot in common with him when chatting over a pint in The Panel Manager’s Arms.

You might find yourself hugger mugger with some the Association’s members too…

“The conveyancing market has been crying out for a body that will specifically represent firms with conveyancing at their core. I firmly believe that there is no other group capable of doing what the CA is aiming to achieve”.
Ian Floyed, MyHomeMove

He believes that, but do you? More to the point, has Ian, or anyone else from the Association  ever asked you what you think or if you want to join?

And what are they trying to achieve?

“One of the great benefits that members can access from the outset is the technical and compliance support that the CA provides. Regular Committee meetings provide a forum for discussion in an open, supportive and non-competitive atmosphere. It’s great to be able to talk things through with people who take conveyancing seriously and are prepared to share their experiences.
Mark Slade, Fidler and Pepper

You might think of buying Mark a drink but, he may be thinking that you are only doing conveyancing for fun……………

“Membership of the Conveyancing Association instantly places me in a network of firms with local through to national and international reach. Our regular meetings and events means we get ample opportunity to build these contacts in an unrestricted and informal manner.
Chris Bean, Gaby Hardwicke”

Good chap to have at the bar but who make up this network of firms? Well it turns out that they comprise 27 of the largest of our bulk conveyancing firms including Barnets whose principal holds some considerable sway over the Law Society’s conveyancing committee, none of them league 6 in the bar billiards competition.

The whole thing is organized and managed by a significant London PR and lobby company Luther Pendragon.

Just remind me again Ian, Richard, what is it that you’re trying to achieve?

By the way, can I join?

What’s that you say, two and a half grand a year?

I’ll just see if I have enough for half………






CQS but not for Locums (yet)

I have been a critic of the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme since its announcement.

I have heard or read nothing that convinces me that is it is still an ill-conceived, ill thought  through  knee-jerk reaction to market conditions and third-party pressures as a last-ditch reaction to the total lack of forward planning by the profession as a whole over the last 25 years.

The Law Society has failed to grasp  for some years now a relentless manipulation by third-party elements such as introducers, referrers, panel managers and even the dreaded estate agents  has allowed them to take control

Notwithstanding that, I acknowledge that there is little option to the  LS scheme since it will enable practitioners to hopefully remain on lenders panels and perhaps have less of a struggle with their PI insurers at the next renewal date.

I was however somewhat surprised today to see that on the Law Society’s site they were indicating that the Conveyancing  Quality Scheme will extend to locums and suggested that for advice applicants should look up the guidance notes for locum applicants. When in Rome……………………

With an eagerness I could barely contain, I searched all over the site for those guidance notes in order that I should get my application in this as soon as possible . To no avail.

I e-mailed the LS asking where I could find these guidance notes and I quote below their reply.

The application for Locums is not available as yet, but should be in due course.  If you check on The Law Society website the first or second week in February 2011, where it should then be available.

Thank you.”

Less than 12 hours later any reference to these notes appears to have been removed completely  from the site .

The words “going off” and  “half cocked” came to mind. I am left even more with the feeling that the whole thing should be taken cum grano salis.

Whatever happened to…………….Lenders

“Revolution is happening to conveyancing on the high street, and 2011 is the year everything changes. I hope solicitors are ready. But are they?” Michael Coogan, Director General CML (twitter 14th Jan 2011)

If ever the was a case of Pot calling kettle black this must be it.

The CML throwing their not inconsiderable weight behind the Law Society’s conveyancing quality scheme and wagging a finger at the legal profession telling them to get it right from now on.

Their memories are jolly short since they appear to have forgotten that it was their ridiculous lending policies over the last 10 years which has contributed to the serious financial mess the country as a whole now finds itself in.

Furthermore they have been shown to be guilty of dubious practices (I discounted the words criminal behavior) in mis selling mortgage protection policies to an unsuspecting public.

The vast majority of lenders communications systems are labyrinthine to say the least with incomprehensible call centres, overblown security procedures which prevent legal advisors from talking to Wayne at “customer services” (Ha there’s a misnomer if ever there was one) unless you disclose your inside leg measurement.

Denial or receiving documents even though sent by fax and DX and a basic failure to train staff about the rudiments of the conveyancing procedure which they are part of are all crimes to be added to the list.

I even had one receive a report on title this week (pre printed by them) for £45k and send me £59K How about that?

The reality is that Lenders have not moved forward but backwards.  I have been in this profession long enough to remember when local branch managers administered rational lending policy and dealt with problems either there and then over the phone or within 48 hours. We won’t get this from them in 2011.

In the words of Eric Clapton “Before you accuse me, take a good look at yourself” Michael