Here in Berks County (and Pennsylvania in general), we're a Title state as opposed to an Attorney state; which means that Attorneys aren't required to be a part of the closing process although you are certainly entitled to use one. As the buyer, YOU choose the title company unless it is a condition of the sale that you use a different title company (for instance through the builder).
A title company is actually an insurance agency and they represent title insurance companies that insure title to buyers and lenders, making certain that the title to the property is free and clear of encumbrances or any cloud on the title that would cause a financial loss. The potential financial loss is what you insure against.
If you are obtaining a mortgage, the lender will REQUIRE title insurance to cover both the owner and the lender. In order to provide such coverage, I believe that the settlement transaction (the order that documents are executed and filed for public record) together with the financial accounting of the transaction are also insured in the event any error or ommision is made. For the title insurance company to insure the closing, they require that it be done by an insured closing agent, basically a representative of their company. So, you generally go to a title company for the settlement of your deal (although title representatives CAN come to another office if necessary).... more