The Legal Ombudsman report today highlights concerns about conveyancing complaints and in particular SDLT, but is it telling the whole story, thus potentially misleading the public? Solicitors have a number of roles to juggle. As well as being the tax collector for SDLT, they also have to act as policemen for anti-money laundering regulations, as well as protect banks against fraud, together with the core skill of investigating the title and ascertain that it is beyond challenge.
While the case studies in the Legal Ombudsman report are shocking, there has to be some proportionality here. The statistics fail to reveal the large number of property transactions which go through without complaint. The report also gives a misleading and somewhat unfair impression about the misuse of client funds.
All solicitors have a requirement to put ‘client monies’ in a separate account, which is ring fenced and dealt with properly. Anyone doing otherwise is either in breach of the Solicitors Accounts rules or possibly fraud – in all cases, it risks at the very least, with being struck off. All accounts are regularly checked and audited, otherwise the firm will be shut down, which shows and ensures that there are already very heavy sanctions in place to protect the public.
It’s also worth mentioning that the profession is self-regulated with the introduction of schemes, including the ‘quality conveyancing’ scheme, which makes sure that best practice is adhered to at all times. So with time, complaints are hopefully reduced and certain types of complaints eradicated completely.
David Gordon founded DG Law London in 2004, specialising in Commercial and Property Law, and has acted for over 400 clients.
David Gordon is also Chair of the Young Directors Forum for the IOD in London
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