Jonathan SmithersAs the President of the Law Society and a solicitor who has specialised in conveyancing, I am delighted to have the opportunity to write for Landnet.

The Law Society and I treat our relationship with Land Registry as of the utmost importance. Land Registry provides the bedrock of information on which the property industry and many related industries are based, and is a crucial ally of the legal profession.

Conveyancing is one of the key priorities during my presidential year. I will be focusing on several different aspects including leasehold information, the launch and development of the online conveyancing portal Veyo, the continuing progress of digitisation across property services and how we best deal with the ever present threat of fraud.

Our work with Land Registry is important to our focus on improving the conveyancing process. Our relationship with lenders and the Council of Mortgage Lenders is important too and we will be working together on several exciting projects over the next 12 months.

The Prime Minister has made explicit his desire to increase the supply of newly built properties. Land Registry has taken steps to improve practice in relation to new build developments which assist practitioners and consumers especially in relation to off-plan purchases. We are working on some materials to update our members about best practice in this area.

It will also be interesting to see how the issues raised by Mr Cameron in his recent speech on the ownership of property by foreign companies translate into proposals and how these might impact both on Land Registry and on solicitors.

Streamlined services

I was pleased to meet recently with Land Registry’s new Chief Executive and Chief Land Registrar Graham Farrant. I know he is working with others in Land Registry on a number of suggestions aimed at reducing complex processes and subsequent delays. The profession is already benefitting from the recent streamlining of Land Registry services.

I know that solicitors especially value the focus on team working which has been implemented by Land Registry, providing points of contact that in turn provide continuity, improve practice and encourage the sharing of information.

All of us in the property industry are under growing pressure from a variety of sources, including steep increases in the volume of work in some sectors. The ability to lodge applications electronically, and efforts from all sides to recruit and train more staff, are having a positive effect. I think the proposals to improve facilities for tracking the progress of applications could provide very useful benefits to Land Registry and to practitioners.

The focus across many services towards digitisation is exciting. The legal profession and justice system are also working towards a greater use of technology to improve efficiency. We are taking a keen interest in Land Registry’s ambitious project to digitise Local Land Charges.

Conveyancing and property law is my bread and butter and has been the driving focus throughout my career. I am looking forward to highlighting the vitality of this area of law, and continuing our work with Land Registry in an exciting and dynamic property sector.

Jonathan Smithers
By Jonathan Smithers,
President of the Law Society