Property group slams 'dinosaur' society

The Law Society has been slammed as a “dinosaur” by the Solicitors Property Group (SPG), which says it will set up its own property shop rather than wait for conveyancing regulations to be relaxed.

In a closed meeting last Thursday the Law Society Council agreed to send out a consultation paper on scrapping restrictive conveyancing practice rules but it will be late April before the replies are returned.

The paper explains the range of options for solicitors, from fully operational estate agencies to property display centres, and outlines the changes to regulations that will be needed to make them feasible.

But the length of the consultation period has angered the SPG, which represents 150 firms.

Executive officer Leslie Dubow said that the imminent opening of a seven-day in-house conveyancing service by estate agents Hambro Countrywide meant quick action was needed by lawyers.

“The Law Society is like a dinosaur, I don't think it could hurry to save its life,” said Dubow. “I just feel we don't have the time to mess about.”

The SPG is planning a meeting in March to discuss how it can establish a property centre in Richmond or Woking, where the first Hambros centre is due to open.

Surrey solicitor Michael Garson is already organising a February conference to discuss a similar plan and the Liverpool Law Society is also considering how it could help establish a centre in the city.

But Richard Hegarty, chair of the Law Society's property and commercial services committee, has warned against over-reaction.

He said many solicitors were concerned about the effect on the profession's image if conveyancing rules were scrapped without thought.

“The crux of the debate is: do we want to maintain the high moral ground?” he said.

See analysis, page two.