About 3 months ago I was lucky enough to hear Jonathan Smithers speak at a Thames Water Conference in Bristol and was very impressed by the depth of knowledge and the conviction that he puts into his conveyancing. I was then able to spend a little time with him over lunch debating referral fees and discussing which type of firm acted in the clients’ best interest.
As a man that commands presence in a warm and friendly way he is also quick to assert his views when it counts. I felt his ability to listen pragmatically to my views to which he strongly objected was a clear strength in his personality. On my behalf I was arguing broadly in favour of referral fees and the consequences they have on the market (accepting that some types of referral fees should be banned I hasten to add). Jonathan was clearly against all forms of referral fees as in his mind they fundamentally undermine the ability to act in the clients’ best interests, but he was prepared to listen and consider my points rather than brush them away out of hand. This was a sensible discussion rather than the clash of opposing views that the referral debate can often illicit.
As the incoming Chair of the CLLC I suspect his views also differ on some important issues to the outgoing Chair Richard Barnett who has occupied the role for some time, but both the outgoing and incoming Chairs clearly want to ensure that conveyancing is provided professionally and with a high standard of quality to the consumer. It will be the nuances of these differences that may slightly change the focus of Law Society lobbying and policy making in future.
The CLLC has a wide ranging remit centred on the review and promotion of improvements in all branches of land law and conveyancing procedure, as well providing practical assistance and guidance to the profession. The Committee also responds to consultation documents from outside bodies, such as the Government and the Land Registry.
“I am very excited about my new role and the opportunity it will give me to contribute towards the development of conveyancing practice during the three years of my appointment,” says Jonathan. “The Conveyancing and Land Law Committee is one of the most important policy committees at the Law Society, as the work it undertakes is relevant to the overwhelming majority of solicitors’ practices.”
Property law continues to develop and the liberalisation of the legal market in the coming years is likely to mean more competition, so the CLLC has an important role to play in making sure solicitors are able to provide the best possible service to their clients.
The Committee has played a central role in production of the documentation for the Conveyancing Quality Scheme (“CQS”) and continues to provide advice as the scheme progresses. The CLLC will also involve Jonathan in the potential changes at Land Registry, regular contact with the CML and the Localism Bill.
Jonathan’s new role at the Law Society is unpaid and he is undertaking it on top of his full-time job at CooperBurnett.
Nigel Burnett, Senior Partner at CooperBurnett said “We are extremely proud of Jonathan’s new appointment at the Law Society. Over the past few years he has not only worked hard to provide our clients at CooperBurnett with the very best property legal advice but has been at the heart of conveyancing law and was a guiding light behind the recently-launched CQS.”
Given all the challenges facing conveyancers we are sure this is not an easy role to fulfil and would wish Jonathan all the best.
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