Chancery Lane accused of abusing dominant position in training market

The Law Society has been accused of abusing its dominant position in the law firm training market in a claim currently before the Competition Appeals Tribunal.

Socrates, an online training company which specializes in money laundering compliance, is taking issue with a requirement under the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme quality standard whereby member firms have to buy their money laundering and mortgage fraud training from Chancery Lane. According to Socrates’ claim, the requirement is ‘an abuse of its dominant position, restricting competition in the downstream market’ (here).

Talking to LegalVoice, Socrates’ director Bernard George said: ‘We have been advised that the Law Society’s training policy is illegal, contrary to the interests of Socrates and other training providers – and also contrary to the interests of CQS-accredited law firms.’

Socrates has applied for the claim to be fast-tracked so that it can to be heard within six months. ‘There is extreme urgency to get this resolved,’ George explained. ‘As we have been saying since January, every day that goes by accrues damage to the business of Socrates, damage to law firms and – we believe – an illegal profit for the Law Society.’

‘There is a legitimate concern that when the Law Society is deciding what training firms should do, there should be no conflict-of-interest,’ he continued. ‘And if they are in a position to award themselves a highly profitable monopoly then it seems to us there is a conflict-of-interest.’

Legal Business in its coverage of the story pointed out that that Chancery Lane stood to lose a significant chunk of its practising certificate fees income if the government makes the Solicitors Regulation Authority entirely independent and so was ‘facing increasing pressure to raise more cash through commercial avenues’.

A Law Society spokesperson said that its Conveyancing Quality Scheme ‘provides a quality standard for solicitors delivering residential conveyancing. … .The Law Society believes this claim to be wholly without merit.’





About Jon Robins

Jon is a journalist and has written about the law and justice for the national papers and specialist press for more than 15 years. Jon is a visiting journalism lecturer at Winchester University, a visiting senior fellow in access to justice at the University of Lincoln and patron of Hackney Community Law Centre. He has won the Bar Council’s legal reporter of the year award twice (2015 and 2005). Jon is editor and co-founder of LegalVoice

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