Law Society facing ‘no confidence’ motion over conveyancing forms


Law Society: Group seeks SGM

UPDATED

Pressure is growing on the Law Society over the TA6 and TA7 conveyancing forms, with a property lawyers group set to bring a motion of no confidence in its leadership.

The Property Lawyers Action Group (PLAG) announced yesterday that it was looking to gather 100 signatures to call a special general meeting at which the motion would be debated, with Surrey Law Society signalling its support for such a move.

PLAG then confirmed to Legal Futures this morning that it has already reached the threshold.

Set up last autumn, PLAG describes itself as “an informal non-profit group of property lawyers” and as such cannot say how many people support it.

The motion expresses no confidence in president Nick Emmerson and chief executive Ian Jeffery “to properly and effectively represent those members of the Society who undertake conveyancing”.

This would be specifically because, “without consultation, or any mandate from members”, the society agreed to join the Home Buying and Selling Council (formerly the Home Buying and Selling Group) and the Digital Property Market Steering Group, and “agreed to accept without taking appropriate external legal advice that National Trading Standards had the necessary legal capacity to issue its guidance to estate agents on ‘material information’ being included when listing properties via their online portals”.

Further, the motion says, the society “accepted” with other members of the council that material information should be imposed on the profession and redrafted the TA6, despite the latest iteration “significantly increasing” the risk of solicitors committing criminal offences and of selling clients facing civil claims for misrepresentation.

PLAG argues that, because of material information, “instead of interrogation by a buyer’s lawyer of carefully verified replies given by the seller/seller’s lawyers to enquiries, there would be a single pack of potentially flawed data”.

As a result, it says, the TA6 would significantly increase the risk of claims for ‘innocent’ misrepresentation, while under consumer protection laws, estate agents, solicitors and sellers are criminally liable for an ‘unfair commercial practice’, a ‘misleading action’, or a misleading omission.

PLAG says: “Despite strict liability for such criminal offences, astonishingly the Law Society appears to have accepted the principle of even higher levels of criminal liability being imposed on solicitors and some sellers merely by giving incorrect replies in the poorly drafted and over-long TA6 form.”

It adds: “The recent actions of the Society in the context of conveyancing represent a betrayal of its obligations to property solicitors. So, the confidence which ought to be there in the leadership of the Society no longer exists amongst its members.”

The Law Society acknowledged earlier this week that it should have consulted with the profession over the new forms but insisted that the changes did not mean additional liability for solicitors and that they would still be coming into force later this month.

However, also yesterday, Surrey Law Society reported that president Dawn Lawson had not received a reply from the Law Society to a letter she sent last month outlining concerns about the forms.

Referencing the PLAG motion and pointing members towards it, Surrey Law Society said: “A recent Freedom of Information request revealed that the Law Society’s consultation on the new TA6 form involved only one solicitor.

“This lack of comprehensive consultation is deeply troubling and raises questions about how the Law Society can effectively represent its members’ interests without adequate engagement.”

Ms Lawson’s letter argued that some of the new questions in the forms “fly in the face” of both the principle of caveat emptor and also the Conveyancing Quality Scheme: “In my opinion the introduction of the new form is likely to lead to more questions and consequently more delays.”

She highlighted a range of other concerns, such as increased costs for clients by having to engage solicitors before securing firm offers, which could lead to them being “swayed” to use their estate agents’ preferred solicitors, “from whom they receive referral fees” and who usually offer ‘no sale, no fee’ deals.

Such firms tended to be volume operations with high numbers of unqualified staff, putting smaller law firms at greater risk, Ms Lawson said.

The form would also increase law firms’ liability risks, with a consequent impact on insurance premiums, which again would be most felt by small firms.

“The profession is massively opposed to the new form, yet the Law Society seem unwilling to listen to or engage with the profession on this matter… I am yet to speak to a single conveyancer who has anything positive to say about the new form.”

She called on the society to postpone introduction of the new form so as to allow for consultation with the profession.

“It is my opinion that if the Law Society persists with imposing the introduction of the new form without consultation they will be flying in the face of their own words and will have failed to ‘represent, support and promote solicitors in the UK and internationally’.”

A survey carried out by the Bold Legal Group last month, to which 238 conveyancers responded, found that only 10% considered the new form ‘helpful’ (70% did not), while 58% feared it would increase their insurance premiums.




Leave a Comment

By clicking Submit you consent to Legal Futures storing your personal data and confirm you have read our Privacy Policy and section 5 of our Terms & Conditions which deals with user-generated content. All comments will be moderated before posting.

Required fields are marked *
Email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Blog


Commercial real estate: The impact of AI and climate change

There is no doubt climate change poses one of the most complex challenges for the legal industry; nonetheless, our research shows firms are adapting.


Empathy, team and happy clients

What has become glaringly obvious to me are the obvious parallels between the legal and financial planning professions, and how much each can learn from the other.


Training the next generation lawyer

Since I completed my training and qualified over 10 years ago, a lot has changed. It’s. therefore imperative that law firms adapt and progress their approach to training and recruitment.


Loading animation