A future for conveyancing

The feature on conveyancing (The Lawyer, 3 February) highlights the dilemmas facing conveyancing solicitors.

While firms enter the property selling arena – to combat the encroachment of estate agents into conveyancing – their traditional role in the process is also threatened by the proposals of US-style title insurers.

In my opinion, Brian Marson's view that there is no future for domestic conveyancing as a business activity for the high street practitioner is misguided.

The Government's review shows that we already have one of the cheapest and safest conveyancing systems in the world. The system's main drawback has always been the time it takes to complete a typical transaction, facilitating gazumping and contract races.

The legal profession has the chance to rectify this, retaining control of conveyancing in the rightful hands of professionals.

The Government's ideas of vendors "packaging" property before bringing it to the market should be encouraged. It can already be achieved quickly by embracing new technology and utilising the services of UK title indemnity companies if problems are identified.

This process would be further streamlined by the introduction of SMI's which, despite placing additional responsibilities on the conveyancer, would clarify and simplify the procedure.

In preparation for the likely increase in demand for defective title insurance caused by the SMI's, the Law Society has already acted developing a scheme, managed by ourselves. It provides a quick and easy source of policies at competitive premiums.

Property selling may or may not be in the best long-term interests of the profession. Providing the public with a wide choice of professional conveyancers guarantees buyer and lender a thorough investigation of title, and remains a necessity.

Steven Clarke, managing director, Countrywide Legal Indemnities.