Paper chase man weighs up scales
Leung Wing-fai is a legal executive, a person with legal training who is not a solicitor. He works for solicitors Sit Fung Kwong and Shum handling property conveyancing. After taking a three-year, part-time course at City University he has been doing conveyancing work for more than 13 years. He is married and lives in Kowloon.
What's on your mind? The scale charges. They cannot be abolished. The old scale has been used for many years and if people in Hong Kong are buying a property they must have some idea of the scale of charges.
People think it's an easy business being a conveyancing clerk. The people buying or selling a property just sign the final document. They think that is all we have prepared.
This is the file for one property. It's four inches thick.
How much time does one property take? It depends on the property. We have to look at all the papers, for at least 15 years prior to the transaction. For some new projects, like South Horizons, such documents can be easily inspected by the solicitor.
But for some properties we might have to inspect more than 100 documents - and we have to read them all. And some of the documents are written in old-fashioned language with very long sentences with no punctuation.
During the day we have to attend to clients and it's very difficult to concentrate on the file. Our office hours are 9.30 am to 5 pm but normally we have to stay until 8 pm just reading the documents. It requires a lot of concentration.
The standard of the law firms in Hong Kong is becoming lower and lower so some documents may have mistakes. We may have to check these mistakes and try to rectify them. Some people worry that if the scale fees are abolished they will lose their jobs.
Are you worried you might be one of them? I don't think so. If you're doing the job properly there won't be any problem. The people in Hong Kong need a lawyer to protect their own interests so they need to employ a professional person.
Look at estate agents. They get one per cent from the purchaser and one per cent from the seller. They don't have to worry about a purchase falling through. But we have to worry about it. We have to solve the problem, rectify any errors. In some cases we have to go to court and get a vendor and purchaser summons to solve the problem.
They just put in an advertisement and show the purchaser the property. And their fees are much more than the scale charges for conveyancing.
Is it boring? No, I enjoy paperwork. Otherwise I couldn't do this job.