Underwriting solicitors

I was very pleased to read the article concerning Stewart Title's announcement that solicitors will take on the underwriters role in their title insurance scheme (The Lawyer, 27 January).

This may well be news for private practice conveyancing lawyers, but it should not be.

For more than 100 years, title insurance has played a pivotal role in the conveyancing process in the United States.

Throughout this time, the title insurers have not carried on conveyancing in-house but instead relied on agents who practise conveyancing in a way which English solicitors would recognise.

The solicitor agents issue a title insurance policy at completion instead of their professional opinion.

In this way, the solicitor's professional indemnity insurance does not shoulder the burden of risk which is inevitable with conveyancing.

In most cases, the agent of the title insurer is actually a law firm. This is particularly so on the east coast where conveyancing is carried on by law firms in a very similar way to that in England and Wales.

In the article there is a suggestion that First American does not want to work with lawyers. This is incorrect.

First American employs more than 3,000 law firms worldwide to search title and issue policies on its behalf. This policy is not changing in the UK.

I hope this helps to clarify the situation.

Phillip Oldcorn,

First American Title Insurance Company (UK).