Following his article two months ago about Acorn “solicitors” of Rotherham who were not in fact a firm of solicitors Sebastian O’Kelly Property Editor of the Mail on Sunday has subsequently noted a distinct change in the behaviour of the SRA and the Law Society.
Back then he wrote an article pointing out that the public and other solicitors had falsely relied on a business claiming that they were a firm of solicitors when there were not. He went on to point out that there was at best misleading information on the Law Society online register of solicitors which indicated that Acorn were a firm of solicitors. This information remained on the site for about six weeks after it became clear that the information was misleading.
Since then a perception that the SRA acted slowly to warn the profession that this firm was not actually a regulated body has worried the sector and fuelled concerns by lenders about conveyancers. Some lenders who wish not to be named have used this as an example to Today’s Conveyancer as to why much smaller lender conveyancing panels are justified.
Sebastian O’Kelly has this weekend noted that a similar case of a firm claiming it was a solicitors practice when it was not has resulted in much swifter action.
“Orient Solicitors of Leicester” do not appear to be an authentic or regulated firm and the SRA and the Law Society have acted quickly to enable people searching the Law Society “find a solicitor” register for solicitors trading in this style to be warned not to send money to this entity. O’Kelly reports that the SRA and Law Society acted to warn conveyancers and public within two days of being informed about the issue. Conveyancers should check the precise warning on the SRA website so as to be sure that firms of a similar name are not confused with the firm that the SRA has concerns about.
Whilst this swifter action is welcome professional conveyancers are increasingly worried about the ease with which would be criminals can set up practices and have them registered on the Law Society website.
As the whole of the conveyancing system relies on undertakings given and received as binding promises how can the system operate without trust that the person giving the undertaking is a properly regulated professional.
Even tonight solicitor conveyancers are operating websites and business brands under names that are different to those that they are regulated under on the Law Society “find a solicitor” register and do not display their regulated name or number on their sites. This all seems incredibly confusing for those relying on undertakings from these firms.
Hard working honest conveyancers seem far too likely to be able to have their own reputations and businesses tarnished if they are conned into believing that the firm on the other side is above board.