Conveyancing solicitors should see the Hambro/Shoosmiths alliance both as a threat to the very existence of the high street solicitor network and as a great opportunity for the profession. Obviously other large organisations will follow Hambro and I have no doubt that within five years the public will become used to a "one-stop" moving service. It is simply a question of whether we lose conveyancing work to estate agents or whether solicitors unite and fight back with the establishment of Solicitors Property Centres (SPCs). We are fortunate to have the example of the hugely successful Glasgow SPC where the GSPC moved from 0 per cent to almost 30 per cent of the estate agency market in Glasgow over three years.
What is now needed is:
a recognition by the profession that it is standing at the crossroads as far as conveyancing is concerned. If the wrong road is chosen it will prove an unmitigated disaster for high street practitioners;
for solicitors to co-operate in the establishment of local SPCs which will not only result in increased income to the profession from estate agency fees but it will mean that we will again become the first "port of call" when a client is selling a house;
for the Law Society to make funds available to assist the establishment of SPCs. What I have in mind is that (at least) £1m be set aside to offer loans a "matched-fund" basis at a commercial rate of interest payable over (say) 10 years.
If you agree with me I urge you to write direct to your council member to urge your council member to support SPCs and the provision of funding as outlined above. Please send copies of your letters to me, although I am afraid I will not be able to reply to them individually.
Edge Leyden & Ellis