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Familiar theme in conveyancing research

Conveyancers have outlined concerns about financial stability in new research published by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

The report was prepared after 100 firms undertaking conveyancing matters were canvassed for their views on a range of matters. It will be discussed by the SRA's Regulatory Risk Committee tomorrow (Tuesday).

Eighty per cent of those surveyed said they had seen less clients as a result of the economic downturn, with 40 per cent stating they had to make redundancies or implement cost cutting measures as a direct result of reduced conveyancing work. Two out of five said income from conveyancing transactions had fallen, while half of firms said falling numbers of clients was seen as a risk to their financial stability.

Helen Venn, SRA Supervision Manager, said: "We asked the question on financial stability back in 2012 because it has always been something that firms have been aware of since the economy first started experiencing difficulties back in 2008. That it is still very much an issue for such a large amount of respondents shows how much it's in the minds of those involved not just in conveyancing, but the legal services market as a whole.

"Financial stability will be a key consideration for the SRA this year as far as all firms are concerned, and those involved in conveyancing will be no different."

The report was carried out as part the SRA's thematic review process, which seeks to identify emerging trends within legal services. These issues can then be addressed through the Authority's Supervision function when engaging with firms.

Supervision staff visited the 100 firms identified for the research across the spring and summer of 2012. Each visit included seeing how firms identified and managed risks associated with conveyancing work.

Other findings included the fact more than half of firms identified mortgage fraud and money laundering as the biggest risk. Three quarters of those interviewed said they would find further training on property-related fraud and money laundering useful. The research also asked questions around conflicts of interest, complaints and professional negligence claims, referral arrangements and costs information.

The findings will be used to develop case studies, inform the SRA's Professional Ethics Helpline and inform the SRA's review of policies involving client money and the Draft Supervision and Enforcement Strategy for Conveyancing.

 
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