Nationwide Building Society has started a review of its conveyancing panel, removing those firms that have lain dormant for the last 12 months.
Given that Nationwide is one of the largest lenders in the country we at Today’s Conveyancer think this is a reasonable policy from Nationwide to protect itself from lawyers that dabble in too many areas of law.
If you haven’t acted for Nationwide for over a year you probably haven’t been able to keep up with the way in which the conveyancing market has had to tighten its approach to negligence and fraud.
A spokesperson for Nationwide commented:
“We regularly run reviews of our panel to ensure it’s up to date. Solicitors don’t inform us when they are no longer practising so it can quickly become out of date and this is one of those reviews. Conveyancers who wish to return to the panel simply have to confirm they are active and show that they have CQS accreditation”.
The Law Society says that Nationwide’s decision to remove law firms due to dormancy is a “blunt instrument” although have acknowledged that there is an opportunity for affected firms to regain a place on the panel
Des Hudson, Law Society Chief Executive, said:
“We appreciate Nationwide’s approach in consulting with us.
Dormancy based on zero transactions for Nationwide in 12 months is a blunt instrument for panel reviews. There are more sophisticated and accurate ways of assessing dormancy. There is the likely possibility that Nationwide will remove firms who provide high standards in conveyancing.
I am disappointed that so far we have been unable to persuade Nationwide to take a different course.
Perhaps to guard against that, Nationwide have sensibly included an appeals process which gives firms who have been removed with a case proving that they have been active a way back onto the panel if they are members of CQS.
While we welcome what is yet another show of confidence in CQS from the lenders, Nationwide should look again at their dormancy criteria. It makes little sense for them to remove a firm based on dormancy with Nationwide when that firm has had an active 12 months with other lenders.
Encouragingly, we are in regular dialogue with Nationwide and will continue to debate the issue with them.”
Whilst 12 months dormancy may be a “blunt instrument” I don’t think I would want a medical expert, surveyor or an accountant acting for me on something that was high risk and easy to get wrong if they hadn’t been regularly conducting that activity in the last 12 months. After all each lender has differing processes, procedures and part 2’s and not to have done a single Nationwide transaction in 12 months seems quite damning.
It would also seem inappropriate to award CQS to a firm if can’t demonstrate that it has a lawyer devoting a significant proportion of their time to conveyancing. If you haven’t acted for Nationwide in the last 12 months I would argue it is hard to demonstrate that you have passed that test.
There does however seem to be some confusion regarding the appeal criteria.
The Law Society Gazette published this article
today which states:
“Firms with the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme accreditation or which can prove that they have been active in the past 12 months will be able to appeal for reinstatement.”
Note the “or”. Our discussions with a Nationwide spokesperson stated that to appeal a firm must be able to show they are CQS and active in the last 12 months.
Which is it? There seems to be a large difference between the Law Society statement that the criteria are either CQS or active and the Nationwide spokesman saying CQS and active. The answer could leave many conveyancers firmly out in the cold.