Pictured above: Garth Brown (GB), who has authored: Risk Management Strategies for Conveyancing Practitioners. Legal Practice Intelligence (LPI) interviewed Garth Brown about his new eBook.

LPI: Why did you write this book? Isn’t this information already available or taught?

GB: It amazed me while delivering my InfoTrack training webinars to lawyers and conveyancers across NZ and Australia, how little the conveyancing industry knew about the risks to cover on Sale and Purchase files and it seemed timely that I write a thorough risk management strategies manual to detail the amount of conveyancing risks that must be handled on every conveyance, and to point out that these risks keep increasing every year so the Practitioner needs to be vigilant and risk aware to stay up to date.

There is not a detailed publication that covers conveyancing risk from beginning of the Contract to end of the Contract and how to understand and handle the process of risk assessment. My eBook also combines short conveyancing stories from real life conveyancing files acquired over 22 years of industry experience.

LPI: Based on the contents of the eBook, you have identified 117 separate risks in a conveyancing transaction. Have the number of risks increased during your 22 year career?

GB: Most definitely yes. To name a few recent risks: defective cladding non fire resistant, Airbnb issues, tree disputes between neighbours, Aboriginal relics, Coastal Protection Act changes – the list goes on and will keep increasing. If needed, I actually use the eBook to point out to clients why I charge more than other practitioners.

LPI: Have you ever had any close calls or misses with risks?

GB: Yes GST – I recently acted in relation to a commercial property. Is GST payable or not? Is the vendor registered or ought to be registered? The outcome from contacting three different specialists, two of whom were accountants, was three different opinions. So charge the GST and cover the risk is what I did. To get private rulings from the ATO takes months. I found no one knows for sure in this changing area. Some may even need a court order to establish if GST should have been paid. This requires an order from the court for the entity to be registered.

A Sec. 109 (now 184 Cert.) certificate outlined a Strata Levy had been paid but three months after settlement I found out the Levy had not been paid. Luckily the strata property was Title Insured. This saved the client $700 after settlement and they loved me for it! What documents can you rely upon now? It is scary! I could have been added as party to PI claim from the client.

LPI: Would you say that the primary role of a conveyancer is to ensure that the client avoids falling victim to these risks?

GB: Absolutely! From the conveyancers perspective, a conveyancer or lawyer’s role is about ‘asset protection’ and ‘stress management’. A typical consumer, who has spoken to an uneducated third party who does not understand the ever increasing number of conveyancing risks, finds conveyancing an annoying on-cost that does not justify spending a lot of money on. You just throw someone’s name on a Title – that’s all there is to it. The cost and value perception of a client sometimes comes from what a broker has allowed-for in their mortgage figures or what a real estate agent has told them.

LPI: What are some risks that conveyancers underestimate?

GB: Identifying (1) client and the (2) the property. The strategic role that title insurance plays as a risk management tool (after settlement) and acting in a client’s best interests is to automatically title insure and to carry out an exhaustive list of statutory searches. Many practitioners trim the number of searches down thinking they’re not needed. I cover all of this and more in my eBook.

LPI: Have you seen careers ruined as a result of risk failures?

GB: Most definitely yes. A lot of practitioners base their fees on what a competitor is charging down the road or they might boast to clients about the number of people they employ, rather than pointing out the risks they cover and set their own higher level of fees. They disregard the amount of care, time and extensive knowledge of risk they need to cover for a client which leads to PI claims, practitioner burn-out and leaving the industry!

LPI: In a competitive marketplace, conveyancers are under pressure to handle an ever-increasing workload and number of files at any given time. Can you give some examples of how specific technologies have assisted with managing risk under this increasing workload.

GB: InfoTrack has products that I use and recommend, including:

The IDFY App (InfoTrack) remote and in-house use. If a client is located overseas or anywhere in Australia or cannot make it to your office, you can identify these clients with confidence.

MAP It (InfoTrack) where you identify the property address and property title & meters contained therein from satellite imaginary, i.e. do they correspond? The technology highlights where the property is located and can send the screenshot to the client to confirm the location from 20 meters above the roofline.

LPI: Garth, thank you for sharing your insights and experience. You can find out more about Risk Management Strategies for Conveyancing Practitioners at: 

http://www.conveyancers.net.au/risk

© 2018 Legal Practice Intelligence