Monday, September 10, 2012

New Law Society rules for land transactions

by Sunday Business Post 9.09.12

The ruling council of the Law Society has decided by 21 votes to eight to adopt the controversial report of the Conveyancing Conflicts Task Force.

Law Society president Donald Binchy, in an e-message to solicitors last Friday night, said the council vote followed "a lengthy and thorough debate - the third such debate the council has had on this issue in recent months".

The proposals, which were strenuously opposed by some rural solicitors and farming groups, will require all parties to land transactions to be separately legally advised in order to avoid conveyancing problems, particularly related to elderly people signing over family farms to relatives.

The new regulation will prohibit solicitors from acting for both vendor and purchaser in conveyancing transactions, with "very limited and defined exceptions", from the start of next year.

"I am aware that this regulation will not meet with the immediate approval of all colleagues," said Binchy. "However, I believe that, over time, the profession as a whole will consider that the adoption of this regulation was the right decision and will benefit both the public and the profession."

Before last Friday's meeting, council members had circulated emails to other solicitors opposing the measure.

Maura Derives of Derives Sexton & Co Solicitors, Carrick-on-Suir, Co Tipperary, proposed an exception for gifts of property where the transferor had a certificate of legal advice from an independent solicitor. She said this exception would enable clients to instruct "a trusted adviser" with whom they had had a "long-standing relationship over generations".

Derivan said the role of the family solicitor was "fundamental to the sustainability of many solicitors' firms across the country".

In addition, Derivan proposed an exception for transactions in which the certified open market value of the property was under €7,500. She said there should also be an exception to the ban for legal, financial or accounting profession-als in current practice: people who had been carrying on a business for the previous five years and companies associated with such individuals.

Council member William Aylmer, managing partner of Compton Aylmer, emailed colleagues to say that a "diverse group of colleagues, representing provincial and city firms alike, both large and small" had expressed concern about the proposed regulations.

He asked solicitors to email their objections to Law Society, with copies to him. Aylmer told The Sunday Business Post he would not comment on the number of objections received, as council meetings were confidential.

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