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‘Conveyancer’ role contingent on wider reforms – LSRA

11 Apr 2024 / property Print

‘Conveyancer’ role must wait for wider reforms

The Legal Services Regulatory Authority (LSRA) has made recommendations for conveyancing reforms that will enhance competition, and increase efficiencies and transparency in conveyancing.

It states that a new profession of conveyancer would only be viable as part of a wide range of other more significant and pressing reforms to digitise conveyancing and ensure more costs transparency. 

The LSRA report identifies three priority areas of reform, including:

  • Digitising conveyancing with greater use of technology,
  • Enhanced transparency requirements for solicitors on costs, and
  • Increasing consumer awareness to enable them to make informed decisions when seeking conveyancing services from solicitors.

Electronic conveyancing

While electronic conveyancing (e-conveyancing) would be a complex undertaking, it merits careful consideration, according to the LSRA.

Key stakeholders in the legal-services sector need to work intensively to increase the application of technology by solicitors’ practices in order to streamline existing conveyancing processes.

The LSRA wants statutory powers to introduce enhanced transparency requirements for solicitors in relation to conveyancing services and their costs.

The LSRA makes its recommendations to the Minister for Justice based on

  • A 126-page independent expert research report prepared by Indecon, which includes a review of conveyancing systems in a range of other jurisdictions, a solicitor survey, and analysis of written submissions to the LSRA’s wide-reaching statutory public consultation,
  • A national survey that found high levels of satisfaction (93%) with conveyancing services among consumers,

The LSRA has submitted the Indecon expert report, as well as its own report, with recommendations in fulfilment of its obligations under section 34 of the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015 (as amended).

This requires the LSRA to report on the creation of a new profession of conveyancer in Ireland.

Pros and cons

The LSRA was asked to consider the pros and cons of creating a conveyancer profession and regulation model, to analysee any barriers to new providers, and to consider how digital technology could transform the manner, cost and speed of conveyancing.

The LSRA report states: “The barriers, risks and regulatory costs associated with the establishment of a new profession of conveyancer in Ireland are too significant to justify its creation in the absence of these wider reforms.”

It adds, however, that such a move could be considered in the future, if the measures it is proposing were implemented.

LSRA chief executive Dr Brian Doherty said that the evidence showed that conveyancing in Ireland was very much a paper-based system in a digital age.

There was not enough transparency in the market to enable consumers to make informed decisions, he added.

“Our recommended reforms are aimed at bringing about an easier, more efficient and more transparent conveyancing process, whilst also protecting and empowering consumers and promoting enhanced competition.”

Expert Report Findings

The Indecon research study concluded that:

  1. Ireland has a well-developed conveyancing market, which is served by a large number of solicitor practices, and there are high levels of overall satisfaction with conveyancing services among consumers,
  2. There is a range of prices for conveyancing services available in the Irish market,
  3. Most conveyancing services are provided on a fixed-fee basis,
  4. There is a lack of transparency in the market arising from major gaps in the availability of comparative information on the cost of conveyancing services, although some improvements have been made,
  5. There is evidence of consumer inertia in the choice of conveyancing service providers,
  6. A trained conveyancer could conduct routine conveyancing but would have a lower level of legal expertise than is needed to qualify as a solicitor,
  7. Many of the legal firms providing conveyancing services have not significantly applied technology in carrying out conveyancing work,
  8. Other jurisdictions have established a conveyancer profession,
  9. The establishment of a new profession of conveyancer would increase competition for the provision of conveyancing services,
  10. Enhancing competition and improving the efficiency of conveyancing services would require measures to ensure:
  • Greater use of technology and digitisation in conveyancing services,
  • Significantly enhanced price transparency for conveyancing costs, and
  • Consumer awareness campaigns of the costs and other aspects of conveyancing.
  1. There is a range of alternative models feasible for the delivery of conveyancing services.
  2. Potential issues in introducing a new profession of conveyancer would be regulatory costs.
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