Property group rules could be relaxed to help ailing lawyers

RULES governing solicitors' property groups may be relaxed by the Law Society to help the profession's struggling conveyancing lawyers.

Next week's Law Society council will vote on measures to try to emulate the hugely successful Scottish property groups that have helped solicitors win a big slice of the property market from estate agents.

Among the possibilities to be discussed is the feasibility of relaxing rules that prevent solicitors operating property centres providing conveyancing or financial advice to buyers.

The move follows urgent calls for action from the Solicitors Property Group and former Law Society vice-president Robert Sayer, after Glasgow solicitors announced this summer they had won a quarter of the west of Scotland property market in only three years after 170 firms formed a property group.

In a speech to the Solicitors' Annual Conference in Manchester on Friday, Law Society president Tony Girling said the time was ripe for action.

“The slump in the property market, from which we appear to be emerging, means that consumers have less strong ties of loyalty with estate agents, so the opportunity to seek to be the first point of call for the house-buying project is there.”

Elsewhere, in a speech that principally urged solicitors to take pride in and stick up for their profession, Girling said the society “needs to adopt the service culture towards its members”.

But, in striking contrast to his predecessor, Martin Mears, who attacked anti-discrimination bodies last year, Girling admitted being sad and shamed by the findings of a new survey which revealed that salaries were significantly higher for male partners compared with female ones.

The survey, conducted by Coopers & Lybrand and Scantel, showed that average female equity partner earnings were £36,000 compared with male earnings of £51,000.