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Potay-to, potah-to, librarian, lawyer

Recently, for the first time, I’m involved in a stressy legal transaction. I’ve sold one property, and I’m buying another – when I bought the first property, I was a first time buyer: no chain, no issues, just finances to get sorted, and conveyancing fees to pay. This time around, I have the finances of the property I’m leaving (along with any final bill from the Totally Incompetent and Deeply Hated Factoring Company) to deal with, a new mortgage to apply for, the transfer of the old mortgage from the old mortgage company to the new mortgage company, the transfer of mortgage cash and deposit to the owner of the property I'm buying, and legal/conveyancing fees for buying and selling to cover. So, while one property's definitely sold, I'm still waiting for confirmation of the one that I've bought is officially bought.

Now, as a librarian, I deal with information. My users ask me for information all the time, and I try and get it for them. Sometimes, this information can take longer to get, or is trickier to source than expected. I know my users have various others depending on them, so they need to know when they'll get that information, or at least be able to tell interested parties that they are working on the issue, and hope to give them a response in X hours/days. So I try and ensure that my users know how long something might take, or if something's taking longer than expected, I'll call/email to let them know I'm working on it. It's important to pass on that sort of thing, as, even if your update is "I've been busy, I've not started this yet, but expect to be able to get to it this afternoon/tomorrow morning" etc, then everyone's kept informed, and able to explain to others what's going on.

My lawyer (and, it appears, most lawyers involved in conveyancing transactions) do not share this approach. 

Today I emailed after 8 days without contact (and I move out/in in 14-16 days), to be told, effectively "things are happening, but nothing worth telling you about yet". Which is fine - things are moving along as they should. But as a user, I would prefer to have been given an occasional contact which said something along those lines, to reassure me that there was progress. Instead, I have been gradually fretting more and more that I am going to be homeless/the sale will fall through/I'll need to find temporary accommodation and storage for my belongings/where will everything go/how will I continue to get to work/I don't have enough holidays to cover 2 moving dates, until I finally contacted my solicitor for an update.

Is it a cultural thing? Are librarians trained to make information sharing easier, and are therefore more open about the information they have, and when it will be available to their users, while lawyers focus on commercial secrets, and making sure their profession has some sort of air of mystery? One where solicitors are beavering away in darkened offices, doing arcane Legal Things that us plebs just wouldn't be able to understand, so there's no point telling us about them?


Anonymous said…
My lawyer often communicated by letter adding another day to my wait for news. I couldn't see any legal reason for using a letter to communicate rather then the telephone or email.
Dumpling said…
Oh yes, I've had that too: "please reply to this letter to confirm you are not the bankrupt person with the same name as you, but different address and birth date." Erm...1 - look at the different birth dates that the information you sent me includes, which would immediately show you I'm not the same person, and 2 - why send me a letter to ask this? Email or call me, an I'll reply in writing immediately to confirm that, rather than taking a day to write, a day for me to receive, and a day for me to send the written response after I'd also replied by email! Gah!
Michael said…
The air of mystery is definitely deliberate.

Lawyers like to think that clients enjoy the mystery, arcane language and secret handshakes. Otherwise they might not think they're getting value for money & could have bought a 'for dummies' book on the subject and had a go at it themselves.

btw - word verification is 'bunmor'. Not sure what to make of that! ;-)
Dumpling said…
Hah! A "Conveyancing for Dummies" book would probably need a forklift truck to lift - I'm perfectly happy with them doing the conveyancing, I just wish they didn't feel I should only be informed of progress. I'd like to be informed of lack-of-progress too, so I don't just assume they're sitting on Facebook all day instead of doing the work for me! :D

Also, the work verification was trying to subtly tell you to buy "more buns" for me....
Lisa Jeskins said…
I believe it is cultural but not limited to lawyers. I think those who know that managing people's expectations leads to a more satisfactory experience all round, (for me I like NOT getting shouted at ;) ) simply do it as a matter of course. However I'm not sure how many lawyers go through customer service training?? But perhaps I'm wrong.
Dumpling said…
What training they get is a mystery to me! If they don't get customer service training on their degree courses, it should be taught on their Professional Competence Course (PCC) training (now Professional Education and Training (PEAT 2))courses, which they attend during their 2 year traineeship.

Good communication is an important aspect of whether a client's satisfied with what you do for them - in my case, the legal work is being done well (I assume), but as a customer, I'm irritated by the lack of communication of any type.

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