THE STRANGLEHOLD on conveyancing business currently enjoyed by estate agents must be broken, according to Law Society president Martin Mears and his deputy Robert Sayer.
The campaign to reintroduce scale conveyancing fees spearheaded by Bournemouth solicitor John Edge now claims the support of more than 9,000 solicitors.
Critics of the drive for higher fees claim it could prove deeply damaging for the profession.
But according to Mears and Sayer, estate agents have an unfair advantage over conveyancing solicitors because they see the client first and can direct them to the conveyancer of their choice.
The pair have attacked the campaign's opponents, who include Kent lawyer Brian Marson and former Law Society Council member Paul Marsh, claiming they are blaming the woes of conveyancing lawyers on a free market which doesn't exist.
"It's impossible to compete with estate agents when they are the first port of call for the customer," said the president, who added he was optimistic a solution could be found to the problem.
Sayer said: "People have to be aware of the fact that we have not got a free market at the moment, it is a distorted market controlled by the estate agents.
"The reality is that if you are not buddies with your estate agent there is no other way that you are going to get the business."
The leadership has instructed staff to look into the possibility of withdrawing indemnity cover from those firms which ignored guideline fees.