Et tu, Brute?

With something of a fanfare, the Law Society has introduced its “Conveyancing Quality Service”, but in doing so it is harming the interests of solicitors and not helping anybody – except the big lending institutions who want to tighten their grip on the housing market.

The original aim of the Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS) was, the Law Society tells us, “to speed up transaction-handling and modernise the means of communication.” If that is true, it has failed: the CQS requires members of the scheme to use the Law Society’s conveyancing forms (for which it charges a licence fee) – these are so out of date they still assume Home Information Packs apply, and they are cumbersome and repetitive: by the time a selling client has filled in, for the second or third time, details of their service providers – despite the fact that it is easy for a buyer to choose their own – they must be wondering quite how this speeds anything up. As for modernising the means of communication, I guess this means encouraging solicitors to use email: sadly, some still do not, but the CQS is an eextremely blunt instrument for encouraging the use of email .

More importantly (to me), the CQS is, in reality, simply an extra layer of bureacracy and cost for conveyancing solicitors (it does not apply to non-conveyancing solicitors, nor to son-solicitor conveyancers) and adds no protection for the public or for lenders. Instead, it hobbles solicitors who are members, so that they cannot easily protect their clients’ interests (amendments to the standard contract terms are frowned upon, except in exceptional circumstances), but does nothing significant to speed up any processes.

Most regrettably, the Law Society has marketed the CQS as though it did provide protection to lenders, and has actively encouraged them to restrict their panels to CQS members in the case of solicitors – not, of course, in the case of non-solicitors. Lenders are seizing this as a stick to beat solicitors with, requiring CQS membership as a condition of being on their approved panels, without guaranteeing panel membership for CQS members.  Thank you very much, Law Society of which I am a member, for making life more difficult – that is how you treat your members, is it?

Still, at least the Law Society has taken the opportunity to update the Standard Conditions of Sale for residential conveyancing contracts; removing, for instance, the nonsensical arrangement, overturned by most sensible conveyancers, that meant that if a property was damaged between exchange of contracts and completion, the buyer could walk away. Once again, now, the risk of damage to the property passes to the buyer on exchange of contracts, so the seller can be sure of a contractual right to complete the sale on the contractual date.

But what’s this? For some unknown reason, the Law Society has decided that it would be a good idea to encourage sellers to bring forward the deadline (normally 2pm) by which the purchase money must be received by the seller’s solicitor on completion. As a result, there will now be extra delays, correspondence and costs while sellers’ solicitors try to bring forward the deadline and buyers’ solicitors resist this. And this is progress?

One wonders why the Law Society has done this. I can only think of one reason: it gives them something to do, now that their regulatory function has been fully split off. How4ever, it makes life more difficult and restrictive for conveyancing solicitors, to no good purpose that I can see

If you can see some merit in the CQS, please tell me in the comments

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