Ever wondered what the difference is between a lawyer and a conveyancer? The distinction can be difficult to grasp when both appear to be offering essentially the same service for property transactions. Conveyancing refers to the legal work undertaken every time ownership of a property is exchanged, and while it can be undertaken by a lawyer or conveyancer, it is important to know the difference when deciding who you want to represent your interests.

What is a Conveyancer?

Conveyancers are professionals who specialise in the real property law of conveyancing. Under legislation passed in 1992, non-lawyers were authorised to undertake the legal work involved in a property transaction. Conveyancers complete a one year diploma course and an additional year of supervised training, and their tasks may include completion and lodgement of relevant documents, inquiries around the zoning and title, and preparing a settlement statement. Conveyancers may work on property transactions so long as they do not overstep the boundaries outlined in the Conveyancers Act 2006.

What is a lawyer?

A lawyer is a broad term for any person who has completed a Bachelor of Laws and has been admitted to the legal profession. Many lawyers will specialise in certain areas, and conveyancing lawyers will be most effective when obtaining representation for a property transaction. Lawyers can work with unlimited scope on conveyancing work, and can advise clients on the wider implications of their sales and purchases within the relevant jurisdiction.

How do I decide which professional to use?

Each person’s needs are different when they are completing a property transaction. In order to decide which type of professional is best suited to your needs you will need to consider your budget, the complexity and size of the transaction, and whether you may require further representation.

Does it matter what state I’m buying in?

If you are buying or selling in a particular state or territory, you will need to contact a conveyancer or lawyer in that state as the laws applying to transfer of property vary. If you are in the ACT or Queensland you will need to contact a lawyer, as conveyancers are not licensed to operate in those states. The states and territories permit different levels of work and responsibility as part of their state’s Professional Indemnity Insurance Policy, so make sure to provide these details, or contact the relevant state authority.

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Lily O'Keefe

Lily is a Paralegal, working in our content team, which aims to provide free legal guides to facilitate public access to legal resources. With a keen interest in media and IP law, her research focuses on the evolving role of the law to navigate new and emerging information platforms.