Brokers watch out – there could be unregulated law firms about!

Published: 22/01/2014

Although the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority (SRA) has now published the list of 153 closed law firms confusion reigns over which firms are still regulated and open for business. Close examination of the SRA website reveals that some firms on the list are still shown elsewhere as registered, whilst the Law Society’s “Find a Solicitor” still includes details of closed firms.

‘This situation is far from satisfactory’ commented Eddie Goldsmith, Senior Partner at property solicitors Goldsmith Williams ‘and it puts brokers in a difficult position. With so much conflicting information in the public domain it can be difficult to conclusively identify those firms which have closed. To add to this confusion there also is a clear risk that there are other firms, without insurance, who haven’t followed process and notified the SRA of this fact.

Buying a house is a stressful experience and clients already rely on brokers to advise them on a firm to take their property instructions. Now, as they read in the press about law firms closing their doors, they will place even greater reliance on their broker’s recommendation. In turn brokers need to be wholly confident about the recommendation they make.

There is a way that brokers can address this risk – undertake a basic process of due diligence. In my own firm we’ve developed a due diligence pack to make things easier for brokers when making the necessary checks prior to recommending a conveyancer. Brokers should ensure they have sight of the firm’s Professional Indemnity Certificate and the Principals’ Practising Certificates. Additional reassurance can be gained from looking for a firm holding ISO 9002, Lexcel or other similar independently accredited quality systems and the Law Society Quality Conveyancing Scheme. Finally a check of the firm’s Business Continuity Plan gives you the comfort that that your client’s matter will continue to progress, whatever the circumstances.

In times of uncertainty these checks give you, and equally importantly your client, confidence that the firm instructed will be around to conclude the property matter!’

Content correct at time of publication

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