The terms ‘lawyer’ and ‘conveyancer’ are often used interchangeably, and we’re often asked what the difference is. Basically, the difference is training and skill set. Now I hear what you’re thinking – these guys are lawyers so they will tell us that lawyers are best. While it’s true we are lawyers, we often transact with conveyancers and believe they offer an important and valuable service. The purpose of this article is to give you some knowledge around the difference and highlight some situations where lawyers can add value.
To become a conveyancer, you must complete a two-year polytechnic course to receive a diploma of conveyancing (or if you have 10 years’ of conveyancing experience such as a legal executive you can apply to the New Zealand Society of Conveyancers for the appropriate equivalency assessment certificate). Conveyancers are regulated by the Society of Conveyancers. To become a lawyer, you must complete a law degree through a university which generally takes four or five years. Lawyers are regulated by the New Zealand Law Society.
Both lawyers and conveyancers are regulated by the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006. Under this Act, conveyancing (transferring ownership in property or a business) is restricted to lawyers and conveyancers. There are also a number of legal services which only lawyers may provide.
So, if both lawyers and conveyancers can assist with the sale, purchase or refinance of your property or business, why should you use a lawyer?
We find that buying and selling property and businesses often intersect with other issues that lawyers are uniquely skilled to assist with.
If you’re buying a home with a partner, you may wish to consider the relationship property consequences of the purchase. We have expertise in advising in this area, and only lawyers can advise clients on entering a ‘Contracting Out Agreement’ (also known as a ‘pre-nup’) under the Property (Relationships) Act, which allows you to bypass some parts of the Act’s provisions.
Many first home buyers are now requiring gifts or lending from their parents to help with their deposit. A lawyer has the legal drafting expertise to help structure this arrangement to best protect both you and your parents.
Some people wish to set up a trust to keep their assets protected in a different structure. We can draft trust deeds and other trust documents to effectively reflect your needs and intentions to protect your assets. Going forward, the new Trusts Act will make it more important than ever to be fully informed about the responsibility of being a trustee.
Commercial transactions will often require more than just a sale and purchase agreement. They may require a knowledge of commercial leases or franchise agreements, or if you’re setting up a new business structure you may want shareholder agreements and company constitutions, which are documents we routinely deal with.
Many issues that come up during a conveyancing transaction will be something an experienced lawyer or conveyancer will have dealt with before. It will be the novel, unusual situations where a lawyer’s skills in contractual and statutory interpretation and negotiation will be invaluable. Lawyers spend years of law school practicing this very thing. If issues require the next step of dispute resolution, we have the experience and training to ensure everything during your transaction up to that point is dealt with in a way to best prepare you for any negotiations or litigation.
At the end of a conveyancing transaction we often find clients thinking about writing wills and enduring powers of attorney, since they now feel like they have an asset that is worth planning for. We take the time to consider all the relevant legal issues and client needs for these documents, rather than preparing the same standard form document for everyone.
As discussed above, property and business transactions often bring up much more than the simple conveyancing. A lawyer will be able to deal with any situation that arises, providing you the best all-around service possible.