Building societies attack retainer plan

Building society chiefs are set to provide more quality work to corporate law firms while continuing a tough line on poor standards, negligence and fraud among conveyancers.

And Law Society efforts on default issues are seen as protectionist attempts to preserve work for an over-populated profession.

Building Societies Association (BSA) deputy director general Ron Armstrong, speaking at the BSA annual conference, attacked the Law Society plan for 'limited' or 'defined' retainers. This follows the society's climb-down on separate representation.

“We are not in favour of this either. All these things are really an attempt to help the profession over what they see as a lack of work,” Armstrong said.

“We believe there is a more fundamental problem – the legal profession is over-populated.”

The BSA argued separate representation would increase costs, administrative complications, and delays.

The Law Society 'retainers' plan will focus on standardising lenders' instructions for using borrowers' solicitors, and using their own, separate, solicitors where they insist on imposing tougher liabilities on solicitors.

“This is separate representation through the back door,” said Armstrong.

The BSA still wants the Law Society to take a tougher regulatory stance on default.

Meanwhile corporate lawyers will benefit from building societies' turmoil over takeover, mergers and conversion to plc status, BSA director general Adrian Coles said.

“There is going to be a lot of business for lawyers,” he said. This view was strongly supported by law firms exhibiting at the conference including Booth & Co, Chorley & Pickersgill, Church Adams Tatham & Co, Dibb Lupton Broomhead, Eversheds, Hamlyn Slowe, Marsons, Pinsent Curtis, Shoosmiths & Harrison, Stephenson Harwood, Teacher Stern Selby and Wragge & Co.