International

Improving conveyancing

Executive summary
This consultation paper is being published at a time of unprecedented challenges in the housing market as a result of the economic downturn. These challenges combined with the creation of alternative business structures, increasing anti-money laundering requirements and separate security demands from the Land Registry, changing client expectations and new technology are changing the environment within which solicitors practice.

The consultation seeks the views of solicitors on how the conveyancing process can be improved. Solicitors have a pivotal position in residential conveyancing with their professional duties at the core of a process that demands action in the best interests of sellers, buyers and lenders and that retains the confidence of all participants. Solicitors are in the best position to bring the necessary legal expertise to this complex process.

The Law Society is building on its unique experience and expertise in the home buying and selling process by reviewing the way in which some of the elements of the process work, such as moving away from the principle of 'caveat emptor' or 'let the buyer beware'. It is considering the provision of estate agency services alongside conveyancing services and developing ways for a solicitor to take on a new role analogous to that of a notary in France.

The Society is suggesting that a revised protocol and forms and a bespoke membership scheme provisionally called 'Transaction Plus', supported by an electronic conveyancing portal, could maintain and enhance quality for the longer- term. The membership scheme explores the development of completion-ready packs (taking HIPs to their logical conclusion), a Client Charter to ensure good service to clients and possible regulation, together with a possible Residential Conveyancing Accreditation Scheme requiring a demonstrable level of expertise from conveyancing solicitors.

The consultation paper explores all these options and asks questions to which, in addition to your general views, we would invite responses. The profession should shape the future of residential conveyancing by having the opportunity to develop the best solution dedicated to improving the process for the public.

In the view of the Law Society it is essential that solicitors remain at the heart of conveyancing. Raising standards and moving ahead of the times will help to achieve that aim.

Improving residential conveyancing

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