Networks join forces to offer conveyancing 'kitemark'

TWO NATIONAL legal networks joined forces last week to launch a new set of “premium level” practice standards for conveyancing firms.

The guidelines for bigger and better-organised practices were published jointly by Conquest, the national

solicitors' grouping, and Network 2000, the association of firms which service lenders.

The announcement comes as the Law Society finds itself under fire from representatives of small conveyancers for plans to introduce a “kitemark-style” quality standard.

Solicitors' Property Group chair Gerald Funnell claims the kitemark plan will penalise small firms which cannot afford the additional costs involved in preparing for the award.

But Network 2000 and Conquest claim their members are medium to large-sized firms, have been consulted, and will easily be able to reach the standard required for their code.

The standard is higher than that planned by the society, so those firms which qualify would also satisfy Chancery Lane.

Robin Richard, Conquest operations director, says: “The production of the standards has shown that solicitors and lenders can work together to produce initiatives that will be to the benefit of all.”

Alan Baker, chair of Network 2000, adds: “The adoption of the standards demonstrates clearly the commitment of our member firms in offering conveyancing services of the highest quality.”

But Funnell reaffirmed his opposition to a kitemark scheme for SPG members.

The code details how firms will handle case management, and how monitoring and supervision will be carried out.

It includes an “audit checklist”, indicating which services to concentrate on.

Seven leading lenders, including the Abbey National, Nationwide and Woolwich were consulted regarding the scheme.

The main aim of the initiative is to counter widespread concern about general conveyancing standards.