This is a common question among people wanting to buy or sell property. So, is a conveyancer a solicitor?
Well, the answer can be confusing. The short version is “usually, but not always”.
A conveyancer can actually be a legal executive, a paralegal, or a solicitor. These are legal terms that sound very similar but they do have key things that separate them.
Here is what you need to know about the differences between them and why you might want to make sure which you are using before you choose your conveyancer:
Is A Conveyancer A Solicitor?
There are broadly three types of legal professionals who can provide conveyancing services:
What Is A Legal Executive?
You can think of legal executives as solicitors who specialise in only one or two fields of law.
A legal executive is normally qualified to the same level as a solicitor in their chosen field. They do the same kind of work in it and can work in legal offices. They often have their own clients and are allowed to represent them in court if necessary. They can even become partners in law firms.
Technically speaking though, a legal executive is not a solicitor. The work they do every day might be much the same as a solicitor working in the same field, such as conveyancing (a common field for legal executives to specialise in).
However, a legal executive will not have completed the study of wider legal practice that is mandatory for solicitors. If they choose to become chartered (specialising in only a single field), they can continue training and aim to qualify as a solicitor though.
What Is A Paralegal?
Paralegals are more commonly found in US legal practices but have recently started to have a growing role in UK law.
Paralegals are often thought of as legal assistants – a large part of the work of most paralegals will be assisting a solicitor. They may draft legal documents, work on financial documents, do research, or help prepare a case.
This will differ depending on the practices of individual law firms. Each sets different expectations for its paralegals. In some firms, a paralegal might have completed the same legal practice course as a full solicitor. In others, they might be a non-law graduate with a graduate diploma in law.
In an increasing number of larger firms, responsibility for a great deal of conveyancing is handed over to paralegals (who must be licensed by the Council of Licensed Conveyancers).
That said, paralegals cannot do all the work a solicitor or even a legal executive can. They are not allowed to give legal advice, cannot sign documents on behalf of clients, and cannot represent a client in court (unless they have special discretion from a judge).
What Is A Solicitor?
A solicitor is a legal professional qualified to give specialist advice on a wide range of fields of law. They will have passed that key legal practice course (covering 24 fields of law) and are also able to represent their clients in most courts.
A solicitor is “instructed” by their client. That is to say, they follow their clients’ wishes. But they can advise their clients on the best way to proceed based on their in-depth knowledge. A solicitor will be:
- Qualified in many different fields of law – such as conveyancing, wills and probate, family law, commercial law, and litigation. Many specialise in certain fields, but they will have passed that important legal practice qualification covering them all.
- Able to offer expert legal advice – unlike a paralegal, for example, a qualified solicitor can offer legal advice as to your rights or the best legal remedy or way to proceed in a wide range of circumstances.
- Permitted to represent clients in court – in Magistrates’ Courts and County Courts, solicitors can represent their clients in person. They can do so in what are often called the “higher courts” too (Crown Court or High Court, for example) if they have additional training.
Is My Conveyancer A Solicitor?
In terms of conveyancing, there should – in theory – be little to choose between the quality of service offered by licensed conveyancers or conveyancing solicitors.
The only added advantage of using a full solicitor is that they are qualified to advise you on other fields of law – and they can represent you if any legal problems do arise too.
The best approach is usually to speak with several good options and see if you feel confident in their knowledge and their approach to communication. But where to start?
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