SOLICITORS' REMUNERATION: A CRITIQUE OF RECENT DEVELOPMENTS IN CONVEYANCING

DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2230.1977.tb02449.x
Publication Date01 Nov 1977
AuthorRoger Bowles,Jennifer Phillips
SOLICITORS’ REMUNERATION
:
A CRITIQUE
OF
RECENT DEVELOPMENTS IN
CONVEYANCING
INTRODUCTION
THE
legal profession’s economic dependency upon conveyancing,
and its exploitation of the conveyancing monopoly, have ensured
a long history of public controversy over the methods by which
property transfers are effected, and the assessment of an appropriate
scale of fees.
In
the past debate has generally centred on the advan-
tages of an efficient system of land registration and the consequences
of its development for the profession
’;
at present, however, the
debate is concerned more with the level of charges and maintenance
of the solicitors’ monopoly. The purpose of this paper is to present
the arguments for a more competitive approach to conveyancing
charges and to discuss alternatives which would be
fair
to both
solicitors and clients. Although a recent change
in
the law offered
scope for a more competitive method of charging, the judicial inter-
pretation of the Solicitors’ Remuneration Order
1972
is inconsistent
with the reforming intentions which underlay its introduction and
the judgment in
Property and Reversionary Investment Corporation
Ltd.
v.
Secretary
of
State
for
the Environment
casts doubt on
whether the planned move away from scale charges expressed in the
Order is taking place. As long as scale charges persist, either formally
or informally, fees for some transfers will be too high and the
pressure from unqualified conveyancers will remain.
Solicitors have always relied
on
property for their main source of
income. The survey conducted by the Prices and Incomes Board for
their
1968
Report4 suggested that
in
round terms conveyancing
contributed
55
per cent. of solicitors’ incomes whilst accounting
for
40 per cent. of their (total) expenses. For many provincial solicitors
the percentages would be much higher. There
is
no doubt that any
undermining of the monopoly, either through a change in the law
or through an increase in do-it-yourself conveyancing, would have
a
substantial effect upon solicitors’ remuneration, an effect which
would be exacerbated by the probable loss of another important
source
of
income, legally-aided uncontested
divorce^.^
1
See A. Offer,
The Origins
of
the Law
of
Property Acts 1910-25
(1977) 40
M.L.R. 505.
2
The Solicitors’ Remuneration Order 1972,
S.I.
1139 which came into effect on
January
1,
1973, abolishing the scale fee.
3
Property and Reversionary Znvestment Corporation Ltd.
V.
Secretary
of
State
for
fhe Environment
[
19751 2
All
E.R. 436.
4
National Board for Prices and Incomes, Report
No.
54, “Remuneration
of
Solicitors,” Cmnd. 3529 (1968).
5
In addition the Report
of
the Royal Commission on Civil Liability for Personal
Injury (the Pearson Commission)
may
have implications
for
solicitors’ earnings from
claims for compensation for injury.
639

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