LAWYERS' LOOT SIR,—The marriage which ought to have been arranged
between Mr. S. G. Carter, of Harrow, and the Goddess of Truth, has clearly not yet taken place. Mr. Carter's latest effort shows that the divergence of the happy pair gets steadily wider.
Your readers are unlikely to be interested in a weary recital of figures. If such as are interested in this correspondence will bear with me for a moment, I will do what I can to convince them of the truth of the allegation which I made before, and now repeat, that Mr. Carter is carrying on a shameful and cheap propaganda campaign by the use of falsehoods. Here are some further examples.
'Of course,' says Mr. Carter, 'my figure of £85' (which, be it noted, is nearer the truth than the figure of £89 which he now substitutes but is still false) 'includes the costs of the mortgage.' How, he asks, can we be so naive as to suppose otherwise? The answer is that Mr. Carter clearly stated that £85 was the cost of the purchase. No reference to a mortgage was made. But Mr. Carter's figures are quite wrong. Here arc the right ones: 1. Vendor's solicitor, for preparing contract, deducing title and completing sale with unregis- tered title for £4,000 .. .. £60 2. Purchaser's solicitor, for agreeing contract, investigating title, and completing purchase with unregistered title for £4,000 .. £60 3. As before, in each case, with registered title .. • • .. £40 A quick check of my files made this morning indicates a proportion of registered to unregistered titles of about eight to one. So that in nearly 90 per cent of the cases in which I am acting for seller or buyer of a £4,000 house who is getting a 90 per cent mortgage, I shall get £66, So much for Mr. Carter and his fairy-stories.
Mr. Carter sheds crocodile tears over what will befall Mr. Jackson and myself if we offer to act for buyers of houses for £4,000 at a fee of £40. I here and now offer exactly that, in the case of a house with a registered 'title. I must add, however, that so does every other practising solicitor.
Now for this pernicious pack of falsehbods about £85 for a morning's work for a clerk and a typist. There arrived on my table yesterday evening a set of papers concerning the purchase by my client of a house for £3,300. It comprises twenty-one pages of typed foolscap. A quick glance suggests that there are several pitfalls which must be pointed out: if I miss one I shall quite rightly he accused of negligence and shall suffer accordingly. Local searches must be made : easily done—but the results may or may not be easy to follow or interpret to the client. If and when the documents are agreed, my report on them to the client is certain to exceed two closely-typed pages. And all this before the client is invited to sign a contract. Fee'? £36 10s.
Last year I was personally instructed to guarantee the title to premises worth ill million, to a bank. It took a couple of hours' work. I hope I got it right. If I didn't, my partners, myself and my family are likely to be made bankrupt. The fee? £21. Does Mr. Carter provide that sort of service?
A building society will pay over £5,000, or what- ever other sum it may be lending, on my certificate that the title is in order; and will without hesitation accept my promise to apply the money in accordance with its instructions. Can Mr. Carter say the same?
'Oh, yes,' says Mr. Carter, 'all this is all very well for these stuffy middle-class chaps who know nothing of the toiling masses.' 1 can myself do without Mr. Carter's Shining Armour Act. I have given over much of my spare time to an organisation which provides, free, charitable financial and personal help to the poorest section of a Surrey town.
'The £40 for the vendor's solicitor' (I quote again) 'goes on to the price of the house (ask any econo- mist).' Nonsense. The vendor asks what he thinks he can get. A vendor can always act for himself. Hardly any do. Why? Because the lawyer's fee pro- vides value for money.
'What the young artisan earns in a month the solicitor's staff earn in a motning—but not for them- selves.' This is a shameful lie. If Mr. Carter and his colleagues do their work at that sort of speed, then the work is being badly, and incompetently done.
I will do my best to demonstrate this at any time.
'You must use a solicitor,' says the Leeds Town Clerk. If the hard-headed citizens of Leeds will lend their money only to those who are willing to ensure, as only solicitors can, that the money will not be misapplied, who will blame them?
We repeat : if we are overcharging, the public will catch up with us. The figures are available for all to see. Our fees for conveyancing are fixed by Parlia- ment (not, as Mr. Carter falsely suggested elsewhere, by a committee of lawyers). If they are excessive, there will be pressure to reduce them. But let public opinion be swayed by the facts, not by falsehoods and by spiteful malicious accusations.