Co-operative Financial Services, owner of the Britannia Building Society on the 5th October removed 3, 600 sole conveyancing practitioners (solicitors who do not practice in partnership) from their panel of lawyers to deal with conveyancing. The danger is that the floodgates could be about to open with a number of lenders following their lead.
This is bad news for buyers and sellers who have benefited from the great service they receive from sole practitioners with whom they may have worked for years. It means that they may, in the future, be prohibited from using the conveyancing solicitor of their choice.
In these difficult economic times sole practitioners may go out of business depriving the community of local conveyancing advice as well as general legal advice with resulting diminution of access to justice. For many sole practitioners conveyancing work subsidises legal aid. Legal aid is there to provide access to justice for those who cannot afford it and so the risk to those people who may have to rely on legal aid is high.
Co-operative Financial Services, which is the financial arm of the Co-op, has recently merged with Britannia and Platform Home Loans.
As a result of the decision to remove sole practitioners from their panel, if a purchaser in a small town or village decides to chose a Britannia mortgage they may no longer be able to use their local conveyance specialising in the area. The said buyer may have used the conveyancing firm for years and instead will be forced to chose another conveyancing firm.
The irony is that the move by Co-operative Financial Services completely contradicts their own ethical policy. The co-operative movement was founded on principles of having positive impacts on communities around them, however this move could have a disastrous effect on a local community who rely on a local conveyancing lawyer or solicitor for conveyancing,, litigation, employment law advice, drafting wills, defending criminal proceedings and general legal advice.