Answers to old arguments

The letter from Richard Hegarty last week upon the subject of conflict in conveyancing comes as no surprise to me or my group. It repeats what we have been told at regular intervals over the last 10 years or so.

I make the following points:

The Government has had plenty of opportunities to alter the law but has not done so.

We have been told many times that the Council for Licensed Conveyancers was proposing to alter its rules – after 10 years or so it has not. Mr Hegarty suggests the Master of the Rolls could not be persuaded to change the rule. Can he explain why the rules for licensed conveyancers, approved by the Lord Chancellor, should permit licensed conveyancers to act for both parties. Does he suggest the Master of the Rolls would suggest the Lord Chancellor is quite wrong.

Mr Hegarty seems to imply the Lord Chancellor would insist on separate representation before he changed the rules for licensed conveyancers. This seems to be quite illogical. The situation was well known when the Lord Chancellor approved the rules for licensed conveyancers – it seems reasonable to deduce that the Lord Chancellor saw nothing wrong in allowing licensed conveyancers to act for both parties.

Given the above facts is the Law Society implying solicitors are less able to identify conflict than licensed conveyancers?

There is no evidence that licensed conveyancers are going to change their rules nor is there any evidence that lenders are refusing to instruct licensed conveyancers. If there was a public statement by the lenders that they were not going to instruct licensed conveyancers acting for all parties in a chain we would have nothing to complain about.

So far as the public is concerned they want conveyancing done on the cheap. They are not convinced we have anything to offer; a recent survey showed the public believed we are less important than estate agents in buying and selling of property. The Law Society has failed to make the public understand what a solicitor does and how vital it is to them that we render a proper service. Let us see the new president act in a positive way to assist the high street solicitor, who may form a minority of the profession but serves the majority of the public.

Gerald Funnell

Chair of the Solicitors Property Group.