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Why Would A Lawfirm Run Its Own Search Company?

It is not usually a good idea to answer a question with a question, as that does not get you to a solution, but in this case, the answer to the question is obvious.

Having run the conveyancing department of a regional law firm for more than 20 years and having run a successful personal search company for the last 18 years, it is perhaps fair to say that I have gained a little experience in understanding how the two fit well together.

The digital age has allowed for significant improvements in the availability and presentation of property search information, although certain local providers still lag a long way behind. Everyone using property search information essentially has three choices as to its source. Firstly, the direct approach to the producers of the information, secondly acquisition of information from various providers and thirdly obtaining the information yourself.

In the late 1990s, one of the major sources of delays in property transactions was the speed, or lack of it, of the production of official searches by some local authorities. In order to deal with this, we began to do some in-house “personal searches” primarily only to assist our clients, many of whom were extremely frustrated by the slow process. That very basic pilot led us to consider the formal acquisition of a franchise from NSS, which gave us immediate benefits in servicing our conveyancing clients. These were:

  1. Control. Every local search on a property, where the local authority has its office within a 20-mile radius, could be carried out by our own search agents. This accounted for about 85% of all searches. The other 15% were carried out by agents belonging to other franchisees under the NSS umbrella. For the last 18 years, we have known exactly what the position is, in terms of timing, with every local search.
  2. Economy. As an NSS franchisee, the law firm is able to procure ancillary searches, environmental, drainage and water, mining and others at discount rates because of the bulk supply to NSS.
  3. Profit. Running one’s own franchise means that the law firm can benefit from the profitability involved in the acquisition of the appropriate information, rather than paying direct suppliers or intermediaries to do the job and enables a flat rate for the provision of all searches across the country.


The benefits provided by the franchisor, in our case NSS have been and are:

  1. Training. The provision of personal searches is carefully governed and regulated, so in order to meet the regulator’s standards, the search agents undergo significant training and subsequent monitoring, carried out by NSS as part of the original franchise arrangement.
  2. Administration. The administration of accounts on a monthly basis is dealt with by the franchisor and has always been dealt with efficiently, accurately and on time.
  3. The provision of the software to do the job.
  4. Insurance and PI cover.


Search agents do not need expensive office space and, once trained, can work with a degree of autonomy. Following the initial comprehensive training and armed with a laptop and telephone, they can become productive immediately.

If you undertake 80 searches per month in your local area, why not now consider the significant benefits of owning your own profitable search franchise?


John Outram

John spent 41 years of his life as a Solicitor, 32 of those as a partner at TaylorEmmet in Sheffield, a firm with over 200 employees and at the forefront of conveyancing within the area. In addition, he set up and has run, for the last 18 years, a Search company providing information and data for Solicitors.

For the last 4 years, since his retirement as a partner, John has worked as a consultant in conveyancing assisting in the production of software to create a modern, efficient and paperless conveyancing operation, while retaining the key personal service elements required to satisfy the growing demands of personal and lender clients, as well as the regulatory authorities.