Public interest at stake

I read with interest the comments of Chris Jowett in The Lawyer, 23 September. It seems to me that he misunderstood the whole purpose of the consultation exercise.

The question the profession is being asked is whether the present position is satisfactory and, if not, what options for change set out in the consultation paper would best serve the public interest. The majority of the options in the paper envisage the continuation of joint representation.

The fact is that as recent experience of the Solicitors Indemnity Fund (SIF) has highlighted, lenders have sought through their instructions to impose more obligations on solicitors than was formerly the case.

This has increased the risk of conflict and claims on SIF to the point where it calls into question whether it is in the public interest for the profession to continue to act jointly for borrowers and lenders.

The Law Society has sought to identify ways in which the potential for conflict can be reduced and joint representation can continue – for example, by the retainer being limited to matters of title only, or the instructions being in a form approved by the society – and it is hoped that lenders will support these proposals so that joint representation can continue.

One thing is clear, however, the profession cannot, through SIF, continue to underwrite bad lending practice or unrealistic valuations.

Kenneth Byass, chairman

Law Society property & commercial services committee.