A day in the life at solicitors Scott Bailey Lymington New Forest - James Burford

A Day in the Life: Carry on Conveyancing

James Burford, Partner and Head of Conveyancing at Scott Bailey LLP, looks back at how things have changed

Feature article for October

Long-established as a law practice in Lymington, the friendly Scott Bailey team provides a full range of legal services to private individuals and businesses throughout the New Forest and beyond. Each month we publish a new feature article about a different area of the law which Scott Bailey covers. This month is is ostensibly about conveyancing, but it's also a fascinating reflection on how things have changed in 20 years...

Celia Hawson Paralegal at Scott Bailey

"Recently I found a small article that my wife had written about me when she worked in the careers department of a local university. The photo that accompanied it was what first dated the article, mainly because I had hair and a smooth face, whereas now I look like Sid James with a grey and ginger beard (NB Sid James is my comedy hero and Carry on films are still my go to holiday comfort blanket films of choice).

I was then struck with how many other things had changed. I qualified in 2002, but started working (officially) for Scott Bailey in 2000 (although I first started here on work experience when I was 14 years old – but that’s another story, I digress)

Much to my wife and children’s disappointment (as it was an easy go to Christmas present), I rarely now wear a suit and tie, whereas when I started 23 years ago, that was expected, not just by clients but by the profession as a whole. In fact, I recall my then esteemed senior partner (who taught me everything I know) refusing to speak to me one hot summer day because I had worn a short sleeved shirt.

Who remembers the fax?!

When I started, the course of your day was more or less determined by what was in your post. Post piles would routinely be a foot high, a mixture of correspondence, searches, deeds and documents. You had phone calls throughout the day, and faxes (kids: google it). Yes, we had emails, but they were not the main method of communication. Before you could sell a property, you had to be in possession of the title deeds, whether that was a bundle of old unregistered deeds, or the Land Certificate, or the Charge Certificate that had to be sent to you by the clients mortgage company. First Charge Certificates were blue, second Charge Certificates were grey. Now, with registered land, we simply pay £6 to the Land Registry and download a copy. It literally takes seconds.

Seconds have replaced months in some instances

On completion, we had to post the original transfer deed to the Inland Revenue with a cheque for the stamp duty payable, who would then return that original transfer deed with impressed stamps endorsed on the transfer deed, proving that the stamp duty had been paid. We then had to post that transfer deed to the Land Registry. Now, we file the stamp duty land tax return electronically, make an electronic bank transfer, receive a receipt by return, and then lodge the transfer deed and the stamp duty receipt directly through the Land Registry electronic portal.

We had to order various searches, by post, from the different search providers and different local authorities. They would then post you back the search result once it had been processed. Different searches still take a period of time, some local authorities take much longer than others – some take days, some take up two months, but the method of order and delivery has changed. Now, search providers compete for our business on a monthly basis, all searches (whether they be environmental searches, enquiries of the local authority or water company) are all ordered electronically through that one central point and returned electronically once completed.

Communication may be instant, but a proper, considered response should take time 

Electronic communication is of course the main change in my job. I receive communication from people – clients, other conveyancers, the Land Registry, agents, literally every minute, so the volume of different files and transactions that I now look at in a single day can be huge. Emails are instant communication and people expect an instant response. Whilst I will always try and respond as quickly and effectively as I can, you do still need a period of time and reflection in order to respond properly and efficiently.

So what’s next? Will I look back in another 20 years time and shake my head in wonderment at how antiquated the systems were in 2023? Almost certainly. We are already seeing elements of AI creeping into the job with automated reports. The Land Registry is slowly but surely taking over part of the Local Authority search process, with the intention being that eventually there will be one central hub of information relating to land.

The one thing that hasn't changed: it's still about people

The one thing that hasn’t changed is that a conveyancing transaction is still about people. I still care about what I do, the people I act for, and I will always give you the best service I possibly can. And I’ll still laugh like Sid James."

Jams Burford is a Partner and Head of Conveyancing at Scott Bailey LLP. James handles sales and purchases, residential development work, and all manner of residential property issues. Get in touch with James at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

About Scott Bailey LLP

Founded in 1930, Scott Bailey has grown to become a leading firm in the New Forest, providing a full range of legal services to private individuals and businesses. Services for individuals include Residential Conveyancing, Divorce, Family, Wills Trusts & Probate, Litigation & Disputes.

SME business legal services include Corporate, Commercial, Intellectual Property, Dispute Resolution, Landlord & Tenant, Insolvency and Employment Law. Scott Bailey LLP is one of only a very few firms based in the New Forest providing these specialist services. 

The first firm in the region to receive the Law Society's prestigious LEXCEL award for high standards of practice management and customer care, Scott Bailey LLP promises top-quality, professional help from a team of expert solicitors who will put your best interests at the heart of their work.


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