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Law Society to unveil £4m conveyancing quality scheme to head off competition


Conveyancing: scheme standards to be rigorously enforced

The Law Society will this month unveil a £4m conveyancing quality scheme that aims to help solicitors maintain market share and improve profitability.

At the centre of the scheme will be an updated conveyancing protocol to which all members will have to adhere from 1 April 2011, alongside core practice management standards. The protocol will initially focus on the solicitor-to-solicitor aspects of the conveyancing transaction, but is likely to be expanded as the scheme progresses.

The Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML), Building Societies Association and Association of British Insurers are all said to be supporting the initiative, which a paper submitted to the Law Society’s membership board last month said would cost in the region of £4m. Around 80% of Law Society property section members polled said they would join a scheme of this nature. It should be launched at the section’s conference later this month.

There will be robust monitoring and enforcement of the scheme, which will set standards to test the financial probity of conveyancing firms and those working in them. There will also be identity checking to minimise the risk of bogus firms and individuals. Some 70% of property section members believed that monitoring and enforcement should go beyond that of a standard membership scheme.

Eddie Goldsmith, chairman of the Conveyancing Association, said he applauded the initiative, adding that he welcomed “anything that improves the customer’s journey”.

The membership board paper said it was essential for the society to provide leadership to assist firms in maintaining a leading role in conveyancing: “The property market and solicitors’ involvement in the sale and purchase of residential properties is at a critical stage of development. There has been a significant drop in volume of residential conveyancing transactions, which is having an impact on firms of all sizes but particularly small firms. In addition, a number of factors, including perceptions of poor service, new entrants into the market and overcapacity threaten the solicitors’ share of the conveyancing market.

“The recent cull of lenders’ panels, prompted by perceived underperformance by small and medium-sized firms, and lender fears on mortgage fraud, are also a factor, and the CML is supportive of the scheme as a deterrence and vetting mechanism.”