Law Society urges caution over calls for separate representation
30 Aug, 2012
The Law Society has warned that pressing for separate representation in conveyancing could reduce the solicitors’ profession’s market share and hand residential conveyancing to other sectors on a plate.
Law Society chief executive Desmond Hudson (pictured) said: “If the Solicitors Regulation Authority, rather than the Legal Services Board, were to make separate representation compulsory for solicitors, it would not apply to non-solicitors or any professionals not regulated by the SRA.
“Therefore, lenders not wishing to go down the separate representation route – and our view is that there are likely to be many of these – would turn to other sectors to do their conveyancing. Does the profession really want to hand residential conveyancing work on a plate to their competitors?
“Even if licensed conveyancers and their regulator opted for the separate representation route, there would still be a threat from others who might look at conveyancing in the future, who are neither regulated by the SRA nor the licensed conveyancer equivalent. This is the reality of the Legal Services Act. It has created competition and we, the Society, are looking at how to meet that challenge, not make it harder for our members.”
The Law Society warns that separate representation would inevitably increase costs for consumers, who have to bear the lenders’ fees. It would also introduce delays as two sets of legal advisors peruse and approve the same documents or negotiate the terms of their respective retainers. This would be a detriment to the consumer, which was a powerful argument in the Society’s recent discussions with HSBC.
The warning comes as the Law Society and Santander continue to discuss a way through the bank’s recent lender panel review.
Hudson added: “In the old days, separate representation looked like the most appealing option, but in the new legal services market it would be detrimental and not provide the answer for our members. Despite this, we are keen to arrange a series of meetings across the country to explain the decisions the Society has taken and its current plans, to debate separate representation but, most of all, to seek the views of our members.”