Land Registry’s eight Local Land Registrars are our senior local lawyers with day-to-day involvement in applications for registration.
It’s their job to make final decisions in the more complex, sensitive and contentious land registration cases while leading their knowledgeable and experienced legal teams and working with their colleagues as a national team.
In the fourth of our series profiling our Local Land Registrars, we introduce Tom Dove and Keith Hookway.
Perhaps appropriately for a lawyer with a Masters in Computer Science, technology plays an important part in Tom’s day-to-day working life.
Face-to-face meetings aren’t always possible in his role leading teams of lawyers at Peterborough and Telford offices and working collaboratively with his fellow Local Land Registrars.
Skype and videoconferencing allow him to consult and keep in close touch with his colleagues on a regular basis and when decision-making demands.
“The Local Land Registrars meet once a week by Skype, sharing knowledge and discussing cases,” said Tom. “Videoconferencing works very well for meetings with lawyers in my teams when I can’t be in the office.”
Tom puts a premium on trusting his staff. “They are all very professional people and while I have ultimate responsibility for the decisions we take I have great faith in the experience and expertise of my teams,” he said.
“It’s rewarding to work with very motivated and professional lawyers and an integrated team of Local Land Registrars.”
Part of the attraction of joining Land Registry for Tom was its size and scale and he has taken full advantage, fulfilling a variety of local and head office roles before becoming a Local Land Registrar in 2013.
“At the time I joined in 2002 Land Registry was promoting the new Land Registration Act,” he said. “I was working for a 12-partner firm and I fancied the idea of working for a large organisation. Because I had a property background it was a good fit.”
Tom did a law degree at Reading University and continued his training at the College of Law in Guildford. He gained his MSc in Computer Science before settling on law as his vocation.
During his time in private practice he worked in property but also in family and care law before Land Registry beckoned.
He’s currently managing the recruitment of a fresh group of Assistant Land Registrars to the organisation. “We have recruited 20 lawyers in the last two years and will soon be welcoming several more,” said Tom. “We have an established training path for lawyers and there’s a lot of interest in the roles we advertise.”
Local Land Registrars are usually the final arbiters of decisions and complaints about whether or not to register title and whether, what type and how much indemnity might be payable in specific cases.
“We get the most intractable and tricky practical and legal cases and it’s important we are open-minded and honest with customers while also managing their expectations about what we can and can’t do for them,” said Keith, who took the step up from Assistant Land Registrar in April 2015 after 15 years with Land Registry.
“It could, for example, be a refusal to grant possessory title on an adverse possession case where the applicant has disagreed with the original decision and asked for it to be looked at again, or it could be a refusal to accept an objection as valid.
“The key thing is to come to the process without preconceptions. Part of the job is sometimes conveying unwelcome news and giving full reasons. Where Land Registry has made an error, it’s important to admit it as early as possible and, where appropriate, to make recompense.
“Our customers have a right to expect us to act in accordance with the legislation, to be open about the situation and to explain in straightforward terms what has happened. We also need to be clear why things have gone wrong, even when the mistake in the register is not the fault of Land Registry but due to mistakes made by parties during the conveyancing process.”
Keith came relatively late to the law and believes it was to his benefit. After taking a History and Politics degree at Queen Mary College in London he did an AS-Level in law at night school while working at the Home Office dealing with political asylum applications.
A postgraduate law degree at Sussex University followed and a year’s legal practice course at the College of Law in London led to Keith completing his training contract at Barwells Solicitors in Eastbourne. He worked mainly in property before joining Land Registry via the Government Legal Service in 1999.
“Law is not shut off to you at any age,” he said. “It can be to your advantage if you gain some life skills and experience before becoming a lawyer.”
Equally, it’s not vital for lawyers interested in working at Land Registry to have experience in property law as long as they have transferable skills and are flexible in learning new areas of law.
“We sometimes recruit lawyers who don’t have a massive amount of land law experience but can adapt their experience from, for example, personal injury law and litigation,” said Keith. “Assessing risk is a key factor in both land registration and other areas of the law.”
Keith leads teams of lawyers at Birkenhead and Fylde offices.
Read profiles of our other Local Land Registrars: