Measure of solicitors’ value to lenders should be quality rather than quantity

STAR LETTER

I was interested to read last week that Lloyds Banking Group is to cut its solicitor panel and remove conveyancing firms that have conducted a low volume of transactions.

I am one of two directors at a rural legal practice. Between us, we have some 40 years’ conveyancing experience.

We do not undertake volume conveyancing work. Instead, we concentrate on providing a high-quality and cost-effective service to a discerning customer base.

Our clients demand and receive a personalised service.

We have risk management systems in place and are working towards the Lexel Quality Standard. And by the way, our IT system is better than most.

A substantial number of volume providers offer poor quality service, often via unqualified staff.

It’s music to our ears when we hear such a firm is in play if we have a particularly difficult property with title defects because volume providers tend not to highlight such problems. Defects are accepted without enquiry, to the cost of home owners and, ultimately, lenders.

If you take steps to understand your customers and their stories as we do the likelihood of being used as a vehicle for fraud is much reduced

Of course, fraud is a problem for all of us in the sector – not only low-volume providers but high-volume ones too. But if you take steps to get to know your clients and their backgrounds as we do the likelihood of being used as a vehicle for fraud is much reduced. Volume providers simply do not have the time to take such steps.

Any impression that a practice such as ours represents a greater risk than any other is misguided. We have a minimum professional indemnity cover of £3m and a compensation fund behind us.

We provide good-quality work at a sensible price and the risk to home owners is that there will be only big practices available in future, restricting the quality of service on offer as well as access to legal services.

We are privileged to be in a position whereby our clients appreciate personal attention. Regrettably, the decision of lenders to select solicitors on a volume basis will affect not only legal service providers but also their customers.

It’s misguided to suggest that a practice such as ours offers a lesser service to lenders, or less protection than a volume business. Indeed, I’d suggest the opposite is the case.

Stephen Foden, fodens solicitors