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WIBU to make a fuss about this: conveyancing solicitor gone on annual leave without telling us.

(30 Posts)
notamum3210 Sat 14-Nov-15 16:14:24

Jus that really.

We are purchasing a house and the solicitors have been taking their time to respond to our e-mails and phone calls. Last we heard, the seller hasn't sent their solicitor the right documents and without that our solicitor will not order the searches. We were told to transfer the cost of the searches to the solicitor anyway so that they had the funds to start straight away. We did so. This was on Wednesday.

Today, I thought I would send an e-mail to follow up and ask for an update. I did not expect a reply today but thought it would be picked up on Monday morning. I then got an auto-reply message saying that our solicitor was on annual leave for the next 12 days and that no e-mails will be picked up during that time. The message contained contact details for somebody to phone/e-mail if something is urgent. I checked the name and there is no record that this individual is a solicitor for the firm (not on the law society database) or on the website. I assume they are an assistant or secretary. I'm just quite surprised that we were not informed. When we received the welcome pack from the solicitor a few weeks ago, we were told that we would be informed immediately if our solicitor had to be absent and that our case would be immediately passed on to another solicitor within the firm. This clearly has not happened.

I'm now not sure whether it is worth making a fuss or just leaving things be. I sent a quick e-mail to the urgent contact, forwarding the message I had sent to the solicitor and for an update on who will be handling our case. I'm concerned we were not told and that they have already been slow at responding to us. Would I be unreasonable to complain at this stage or is this normal? We have paid a deposit for the legal fees and the a several hundred pounds for the searches (although these searches have not actually been carried out yet).

Any advice would be great. We are first time buyers so not very experienced.

Purplepixiedust Sat 14-Nov-15 16:23:42

It seems likely that the file has been left with someone to check for the documents coming in and request the searches. I would as you have, chase up the contact given (likely a secretary, legal assistant or paralegal who will filter the queries and pass them on to an appropriate person). Nothing really to complain about so long as there isn't a massive hold up because the solicitor with conduct is on AL.

EliGold Sat 14-Nov-15 16:37:00

YABVU. The other person may be a trainee solicitor, a barrister, a paralegal or a PA non of whom you would expect to be on the solicitors' roll. A conveyance takes weeks due to the searches. If you don't have exchange dates or completion date within next 12 days it's highly unlikely this absence from the office will affect anything in your conveyance. A conveyancer could be dealing with literally a hundred cases and to email every client to say they will be away plus all the solicitors on other side of transactions before leave would be disproportionate.

EliGold Sat 14-Nov-15 16:40:02

Sorry YWBU. Just re-read question!

pilates Sat 14-Nov-15 16:50:03

I'm sure your file will be managed by a legal representative in your Solicitor's absence, may be a Locum has been brought in? Just drop them an email and ask if they can put in hand the searches. Keep calm, everyone is entitled to a holiday.

scarlets Sat 14-Nov-15 17:25:12

I'd pass it to the other person, and only kick up a fuss if he or she is substandard.

specialsubject Sat 14-Nov-15 17:56:52

the first question I asked my solicitor is 'what happens if you go on holiday?' Perfectly reasonable to go on holiday, but anyone with half a brain should be able to delegate. An extra brain cell should also have inspired him/her to contact you and advise of the alternative contact.


BTW my solicitor was off sick on the day of completion, the firm (not a huge one, but not a dinosaur high-street place either) had it all under control and we didn't find out until after the completion when I asked why someone different was calling.

it's admin, not rocket science. Get on the phone and confirm what is going on, and remind them of the basics of dealing with customers.

GruntledOne Sat 14-Nov-15 17:57:13

I suspect that when they said you'd be informed if your solicitor was away, they were referring to what would happen if he left the firm. I really doubt that any solicitors' firm undertakes to tell every client if a solicitor has a couple of days off with a bug. You don't need a qualified solicitor to send out searches.

Spickle Sat 14-Nov-15 18:03:11

Yes YABU to think your solicitor will notify you of their annual leave.

Most conveyancing work is undertaken by trainee solicitors and paralegals anyway and a fully qualified solicitor will not be personally ordering your searches for you. The solicitor will assess the searches once they are in.

If your seller's solicitors have not provided protocol documents yet (Fixtures & Fittings, Property Info Form, title deeds) then you are stressing before the conveyancing process has really got underway.

Priority is completions, then exchanges before post completion work and clients in the early conveyancing stages like you.

I'm a conveyancing assistant and order searches on a daily basis for our clients and I'm not on the solicitors register.

Why don't you google conveyancing purchase in order to understand better how the process works?

AnnieNoMouse Sat 14-Nov-15 18:04:39

YABU - the solicitor has gone away and you have contact details for someone in the firm who you have now emailed. The solicitor will have made sure that your file will be looked after in their absence. What more do you really expect?
If there are delays for other reasons that is another matter entirely of course.

AnnieNoMouse Sat 14-Nov-15 18:09:33

Having reread your post I also can't see where the delay is down to your solicitor. You said they are waiting for docs from the sellers, and that is causing the delay. They haven't been in contact with you in the last 2 days because there is nothing to report and your solicitor was probably extra busy making sure everything was up-to-date for all the files before going on holiday.

KittyLovesPaintingOhYes Sat 14-Nov-15 18:22:54

I thought this was compulsory seeing as this has happened to me every time
That said, completion has always gone through in the end, as long as you have a contact name you should be OK, and in dire circumstances another solicitor can progress stuff in a group practice.
Our last purchase was a nightmare, mostly down to a bad solicitor, but we got there in the end (no chain and still five bloody months!). Just grit your teeth and smile.

FireflyGirl Sat 14-Nov-15 19:52:52

You sent the funds on Wednesday and contacted them today (Saturday) for an update?

Is there a reason you think they wouldn't tell you if something had happened? I think it's unlikely the searches would come back within 2 working days. They often take weeks.

If your solicitor had just gone on annual leave and your case was doing nothing waiting for them to come back, I'd understand, but they've obviously got someone monitoring their files. And as a previous poster said, paralegals will be doing the legwork, you don't need to be a solicitor to do them - you would be paying a lot more otherwise.

notamum3210 Sun 15-Nov-15 12:34:48

Thank you for the responses.

Just to clarify: the slowness I mentioned is nothing to do with receipt of funds. Since they were first appointed almost a month ago, we have had very little contact and whenever we have phoned for an update, they have been very slow to return these calls despite promising to do so. Of course solicitors are entitled to holidays, it's just I expected to be contacted and told who would be handling the case in their absence. This was promised in the initial welcome letter and was not just about leaving the firm - it mentioned absence in case of illness or otherwise.

I'll hold off making a fuss for now but I don't think this is very good customer service.

specialsubject Sun 15-Nov-15 12:45:01

signs are not good. Give the senior partner a call tomorrow and tell them that you are not getting what you were promised.

if no joy, sack and change.

DoJo Sun 15-Nov-15 14:30:40

I expected to be contacted and told who would be handling the case in their absence.

But you have been told that your solicitor is away (admittedly in response to your email, but there's no reason to think that they wouldn't have been in touch had there been an update which needed your attention) and provided with details of who to contact during their absence.

LibrariesGaveUsP0wer Sun 15-Nov-15 14:40:30

Did it actually say you'd be told in advance if they were going on holiday? Gosh, that's a very unusual promise. It'd take fucking ages to message all the potentially active files a domestic conveyancing lawyer will be dealing with.

The contact on OOO email responses will rarely be a fee earner. It will be a secretary or trainee or paralegal generally. That person will keep the list of who is looking after which file and direct queries accordingly.

Can I ask a question - how did you choose the lawyers? Were they cheap? Generally there are two ways to do conveyancing: at a realistic price, or at a cheap price in massive volume. In the latter case service often falls short and your best bet is to go elsewhere.

notamum3210 Sun 15-Nov-15 14:44:37

It did say we would be told immediately, yes.

We went through a company who allocated us to this firm. They quoted a competitive all-in price. In hindsight, we should have done more searching. I don't know what's very cheap and what's very expensive. Solicitors fees excluding searches etc. are in the region £600.

Pigeonpost Sun 15-Nov-15 14:46:10

I was a solicitor for over 15 years and have never once written to clients to tell them I'll be away on holiday. You leave the files with someone who can handle them in your absence. The fact that the new name is not on the roll as a qualified solicitor is just the way of the world these days. Most conveyancers aren't qualified solicitors. Paralegals are cheaper and just as effective for fixed fee transactional work like conveyancing. By all means chase the holiday cover for progress and an update but put your toys back in the pram about not being kept updated about holiday absence.

EssentialHummus Sun 15-Nov-15 14:47:16

An extra brain cell should also have inspired him/her to contact you and advise of the alternative contact.


Follow up to ask for a timeframe for the searches etc to be done, and escalate the matter if they are not done by the time promised. Some conveyancers need an occassional kick up the bum unfortunately.

The person's name not being on the roll is a red herring - as others have said, it's likely to be a paralegal/trainee/locum.

Rdoo Sun 15-Nov-15 14:50:30

As a conveyancer, you are being unreasonable.
If your solicitor is still waiting on the initial documents from the seller's solicitors there is nothing they can do. It's not a case that they 'wont' order searches without them, they can't. Stop chasing you're solicitor and get on to the estate agents to find out why there is such a delay with the seller.

LibrariesGaveUsP0wer Sun 15-Nov-15 14:51:54

But did it say you would be told immediately if your solicitor was unavailable/away (normal promise - if you contact the firm they immediately explain the absence). Or did it promise that you'd be notified upfront of holiday absences? The fact that you are talking about illness sort of implies the former wording, as obviously you don't know that in advance.

Do the people saying you should have been told in advance know how many live files these solicitors would each hold? It'd take ages (and push up the price). I'd be very surprised if that was what had been promised (though no accounting for daft promises, obviously).

Rdoo Sun 15-Nov-15 14:56:12

Essentialhummus, please stop giving poor advise for a situation you don't understand.
Asking a conveyancer for a time frame on searches when they don't even have the appropriate documents from the seller's solicitors, who can't do much without the appropriate documents from the seller, is like asking how long is a piece of string.

EssentialHummus Sun 15-Nov-15 14:59:39

Robo - I missed the bit of the OP re documents from the seller. I am a solicitor in commercial real estate and I think I have a fair handle on the process, thanks.

I always let clients know when I am away on AL and who is dealing in their absence - it's just common courtesy, and what the OP was told to expect.

specialsubject Sun 15-Nov-15 16:10:10

the conveyancer should know roughly how long the local council takes for searches. They then tell the client that time, adding that they are waiting for documents.

again, not rocket science. This whole annoyed client thing could be easily avoided with communication.

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