22 NOVEMBER 1963, Page 18


SIR,—One cannot let Mr. Carter have absolutely the last word on this vexed topic of legal fees., It just is not true that a purchaser gets 'nothing, abso- lutely nothing' for his solicitor's charges.

In fact, he gets, firstly, the confidence of know- ing that he has a good title to his home and that all possible liabilities and legal defects have been thoroughly investigated by an expert, and, secondly, a kind of insurance in that if anything should have been overivoked to his cost he will have the right to hold his solicitor liable for professional negli- gence. Neither of these comforts can Mr. Carter supply.

As to the lawyer's loot, the client is paying for: (a) the solicitor's knowledge and experience; (b) his professional guarantee and responsibility; (c) a considerable amount of work done. Mr. Carter's figures show that he does not put anything like the time into his conveyancing that a good solicitor does. It is true that in nine cases out of• ten it turns out that 90 per cent of the solicitor's work was unnecessary, but it is, of course, im- possible to tell, without doing the extra work, whether or not this was the' tenth case..

Since the purchase of a house is probably the most important single transaction of a person's life, Mr. Carter is doing prospective purchasers a disservice in encouraging them to 'do it on the cheap' and thus expose themselves to the risk of possible loss. True, the loss in unlikely, but with so much of an individual's savings or income for many years .involved it would be folly to take chances and spoil, not only the ship for a ha'porth of tar, but a lifetime's security and peace of mind foi perhaps 1-1 or 2 per cent of the overall price.

As a single premium for this kind of cover, the difference between Mr. Carter's charges and the solicitor's scale fee is not unreasonably high. Nor, might I add, would a solicitor spending all his time dealing with the sale and purchase of houses worth under £5,000 make a fortune.

[This correspondence is now closed.—Editor, Spectator.]