Having read the letter from Janet Turner I am writing to question your decision to publish what is an uninformed and frankly offensive comment on the profession, challenging as it does the essence of professional obligation, namely to prefer the interests of the client above the commercial interests of the solicitor.
Ms Turner seeks to compare practice today with that of 60 years ago. It can be no surprise that there have been changes over such a long period. However, to suggest that complexity has been introduced by the profession for its own benefit cannot be justified by the facts. Matters relating to energy rating and insulation, referred to by Ms Turner, are statutory requirements. Chancel repair liability existed in the 1950s, but has become an issue in the last 10 years.
Mortgage fraud and identity theft probably occurred 60 years ago, but were not the significant issues they are today. Providing ID in 2013 is, like it or not, a fact of life and Ms Turner will find she cannot open a bank account without doing so. There are further numerous examples of matters which now have to be addressed in a normal conveyancing transaction arising from statutory and other obligations that did not exist 60 years ago. Thankfully, some time-consuming practices of the 1950s such as personal attendances on completion are long gone.
The abolition of scale fees occurred before my time, but I would be interested to know the percentage profit made on an average transaction when scale fees were in operation and the average percentage profit made by a typical high street practitioner today. I have no facts, but my suspicions are that it is the paying public, not the profession, who are better off as a result of the abolition of scale fees.
Peter Arnstein, Forman Welch & Bellamys, Twickenham