Property lawyers furious over 'silly little children' treatment

A BITTER row has broken out over new guidelines for conveyancing firms after property solicitors accused the Law Society of treating them like “silly little children”.

The Solicitors' Property Group says the society imposed its new conveyancing code of practice on them.

They claim that they were offered just two weeks to produce a considered response to a document which covers nearly 50 points.

SPG chair Gerald Funnell complains that the guidelines – which cover a range of issues from file management to dealing with conflicts of interest – have also been sent to home loan representatives before going out to many of the group's members.

Funnell says: “Solicitors are not silly little children to be told by 'mummy Law Society' what is best for them, but men and women who are qualified and often have a great deal of experience in this field.

“They have a right to be consulted and not just have something imposed upon them because mummy knows best.”

A draft went out on 23 May, inviting comments by this week. Among key concepts the SPG wants to consider at length is the prospect of a kite mark-style quality standard for firms.

Funnell – also angry over the plans going to the Council of Mortgage Lenders before the legal profession could comment – says it is wrong for the society to produce a document effecting all conveyancing solicitors “without affording the profession a proper opportunity to consider it”.

Karen Aldred, head of property and commercial services at the Law Society, says she was surprised by the SPG attack because the plans had been mooted 18 months ago and discussed constantly since then.

The draft to be discussed by this week was intended to produce “first impressions” only, with a fuller consultation period later.

“I am sorry that they take it that way,” she says. “There is nothing being done behind closed doors. It is all being done in a very open way and the SPG were asked about this at an early stage.”

John Malpas