Surveyors to put pressure on OFT over Law Society ruling on MDPs

SURVEYORS are once again to lobby the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) in a new bid to force the Law Society to drop its rule banning multi-disciplinary partnerships for its members.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), the professional body for

surveyors, says that many of its members and their clients in the property industry want surveyor/solicitor “one-stop shops”.

The RICS is carrying out an opinion poll of members to ascertain how many are likely to want it, and will then make representations to the OFT to try to overturn the Law Society's rules.

Patricia Monahan, RICS deputy director of standards and practice, says: “This is a very big issue with us, and we've been doing a lot of work on it with the OFT.”

RICS representatives last met the OFT to discuss the issue in December.

The latest RICS initiative follows hard on the heels of policy proposals from the Labour Party which allow for MDPs as part of a shake-up of the legal profession and the provision of legal services. These were flagged earlier this year in the 'Access to justice' consultation paper.

Surveyors and accountants have been able to form MDPs for a number of years.

Ruth Eisenberg, communications director with the Institute of Chartered Accountants for England and Wales, points out partnership with solicitors is “something that the Institute has long been in favour of, although it's not a live issue right now”.

She adds: “We have our members ringing up wanting to bring in solicitors as partners fairly frequently, and we have to refer them to the Law Society.”

Leslie Dubow, of the Solicitors Property Group, says that the solicitors most likely to welcome MDPs will be high street practitioners.

The OFT's position on the issue of MDPs is the same as when it was asked to look at it in 1993. It says there is little justification for the barrier and “competition could only benefit from liberalisation”.