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Competition among regulators is healthy – or is it?

When it comes to the regulation of the conveyancing industry, this question is a topic of open and ongoing debate.

Licensed conveyancers and solicitors who practice conveyancing are very similar creatures indeed: practically speaking, they perform almost exactly the same tasks yet when it comes to training and regulation, they seem stand very firmly apart. 

While there is inevitable overlap between the rules as set out by the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority (SRA) and the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC), there are also areas where they differ quite substantially.

The industry’s duality can be seen as a positive attribute – after all if the status quo is constantly being challenged and existing rules questioned and scrutinised, then a positive outcome might be that the most effective method of achieving a task is reached sooner. And this is true in theory.

However, where the conveyancing industry falters is its lack of coordination.

If two lawyers working on either side of the same transaction are singing from different hymn sheets, the unavoidable result is that each sings to their own tune, marching to the beat of their own drums. 

Needless to say this set up does not always work to create a harmonious melody – and in some cases can actually cause quite a bit of a racket, especially by way of time delays. 

The Conveyancing Association (CA), which represents both solicitors and licensed conveyancers, is dedicated to raising industry standards across the board – including customer services – in part by encouraging solicitors and licensed conveyancers to adopt a more joined up approach. 

To this end, in December 2012, the Association launched the CA Pledges – the industry’s first ever set of customer service commitments which go above and beyond existing regulations and accreditation schemes. 

Most significantly, however, the Pledges are the first document to bring together licensed conveyancers as well as solicitors, in a formal industry-led commitment to improving the house-buying process. 

In a similar vein, in 2013 the CA worked together with representatives of panel management companies to develop the CA Protocol – a document which collates guidance from the Law Society, Legal Ombudsman, Council of Mortgage Lenders and case law to provide all conveyancers with a single point of reference for best practice.

Both documents are incredibly important because they seek to offer the best possible guidance for conveyancers, regardless of which strain they might be, helping them to better communicate with each other while offering each greater insight into the systems and operations of others.

On December 3, the CA is revisiting this issue once again with a discussion on the pros and cons of the industry’s 'double standard' and whether a more joined up approach is necessary or whether retaining the ability to bounce ideas off each other and compete is actually healthy. 

Invited to speak are the CLC’s Sheila Kumar and the SRA’s Crispin Passmore – the outcome should be an interesting one. 

*Eddie Goldsmith is Chairman of the Conveyancing Association and Senior Partner at Goldsmith Williams. 

**The Conveyancing Conference, chaired by Eddie, will be hosted on 3 December 2015 by the Conveyancing Association and Modern Law.

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