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Warnings over conveyancing 'consultants'

14 March 2011

More than 600 law firms have applied to join the Law Society’s conveyancing scheme (CQS). A spokesman for the society said that, by the end of last week, 610 firms had applied to join the scheme with 17 accredited.

However, the spokesman said some firms had reported being approached by “unauthorised risk and compliance consultants” offering to help with their CQS application in return for a fee.

“There is nothing to stop them doing this, but we’ve warned our members that this is an unnecessary cost,” the spokesman said.

“They can’t tell firms how to pass the assessment because they don’t know what the procedures are. If you want to complete the application form correctly there is lots of advice on the website.”

The spokesman added that the surge in applications since the CQS opened in January had led Chancery Lane to increase the number of staff working on the project from seven to 12.

Paul Marsh, member of the CQS project board, said the problem for the society was not selling the scheme but managing it.

“It’s easier for small firms to fill in the forms and get the accreditation,” he said. “The bigger the department, the more difficult it is to get the information.”

Marsh said lenders and insurers had been involved in developing CQS.

“Lenders have always made it very clear that they want the right to determine who is on their panels, but they will ask for this and be very surprised if firms haven’t got it.”

Marsh said CQS would also help firms obtain reasonable indemnity insurance. “Survival over the next five years is not compulsory,” he said. “Joining the scheme is purely your decision.”

There is a sliding scale of CQS application fees, from £150 for a sole practice to £550 for a firm with more than 20 partners.

Eddie Goldsmith, chairman of the Conveyancing Association, said he understood that CQS might become a prerequisite for being a member of lenders’ panels.

“I don’t think it will guarantee staying on a panel – that is for the lenders to decide,” he said.

“Insurers will go on claims records rather than any quality scheme. If it can be shown that by being in the scheme your claims will be less, then there will be some mileage with insurers.”

Goldsmith said the association supported CQS and his firm, Goldsmith Williams, had applied.

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