Tristan Lewis, business development manager at Howells Solicitors - Wales & West Midlands Region Winners

1. Firstly, what is your role?
I am the Business Development Manager at Howells Solicitors responsible for all aspects of marketing, our website and social media campaigns, print advertising, sales training and tracking and converting enquiries.

2. Why did you choose a career in conveyancing?
Initially when HIPs were in play the firm were looking for someone to head this department and to sell their in house product to the local and national estate agents I was offered the position by Howells. I had been working for a large bank in a business development capacity working with business finance. The role appealed to me as there was a blank canvas in effect and a lot that I felt I could help with. I enjoy finding out how businesses work and operate so changing tack and working in a completely new industry appealed to me.

3. What attracted you to your particular specialism?
I have always been a people person and enjoy meeting people and building successful business relationships.

4. What is the most enjoyable part of your job?
I’m very lucky because as part of my role I take clients and introducers to sporting events, for meals or arrange social events where the solicitors and their assistants at Howells can meet our introducers and build stronger links – after all, we all want cases to complete as quickly and efficiently as possible and working with our introducers helps us to achieve this. I enjoy this side of the role and also take great pride when a relationship that I have developed works well and we receive good quality, well paid work as a result.

5. What particular challenges are you or have you faced in these tougher times?
One of the biggest challenges has been recruiting good quality staff that tick all the boxes. We as a company are very proud of our employees and as well as having the right experience and skillset technically, we are looking to attract like minded staff who work well with our clients, introducers and existing employees. Excellent customer service and communication skills are essential yet frustratingly, good candidates can be very hard to find! Staff retention is therefore key as well as a robust training initiative. We regularly recruit up to 5 LPC students at a time and they begin a training work experience placement. After 6 weeks the best candidates are retrained and then trained in file opening roles. These candidates then progress into legal assistants and eventually, some will be either granted a training contract or further qualifications and eventually we will have a fully qualified home grown solicitor/conveyance who has been trained our way!

6. What do you think will be growth opportunities for the conveyancing profession over the next couple of years?
I think conveyancing companies are becoming frustrated with low paid panel fees. As the market continues to rise a lot of practices will get rid of their lowest paid work or renegotiate with the panels. Companies who take a leaf out of the panels books and who can convert cases at a higher fee, employing incentivised sales trained staff can gain a larger market share. I think we will start to see a lot more in house sales training and conveyancing training by firms as good quality staff are becoming harder to find. Instead of hiring staff and putting them behind a desk on day one with no training and saying – earn your keep, firms who invest heavily in training will soon gain a higher market share as both clients and introducers want to use them based on the excellent service they provide as opposed to a cheap fee.

7. What’s been your most enjoyable or high profile recent piece of work?
We regularly act for high profile sportsmen and women - purchasing high value homes or investment properties. One very recent transaction meant that the sportsman in question visited our offices which understandably caused a stir among our female staff. The property being purchased was extremely impressive and we were pleased to conclude the case in a timely manner and receive a good fee. The sports star was extremely humble and a pleasure to meet.

8. What inspires you when it comes to your work?
I enjoy what I do and I like stats. Tracking all conveyancing enquiries is essential. We track every single enquiry into each office and I have developed a software system that allows us to track the conversion rates on each individual in the company that take initial enquiries. These stats allow us to pinpoint areas where we need to train our staff and has also made us aware that while a staff member may be great at their job – sales may not be their strong point. We therefore now have a dedicated new business team and the majority of their time is spent on quotes and chasing up quotes that are yet to instruct. We incentivise these staff members and the conversion rates and fees have increased as a direct result. Rather than increase our introducers, join another panel or spend a lot more money of marketing, we harvest what we already have and improve our conversion methods. This inspires me.

9. Do you work by a particular mantra or motto in your business life?
Good customer service is key to growing your business.

10. Can you give one piece of professional advice to your peers?
It’s all very well spending lots of marketing money to generate good quality enquiries and to make the phone ring – but who is answering that call on your behalf? Have you trained them? Spent time with them explaining what the company expects them to do, say, act? Are they the right person to handle initial enquiries? Are they good salespeople? Are you confident that they will convert that lead? Have you tracked where the call came from? Are you tracking the conversion rates of the enquires? If not then you are losing money.