You might not think of property law, or practice, as a subject that is ripe for change. When you consider the complete overhaul of the legal foundations since the turn of the century, along with standard missives, SDLT and then LBTT, land registration in its successive guises, changes in lenders' rules, digitisation in progress and now land reform and new private tenancy legislation in the pipeline, you would hardly expect practitioners to feel that more was needed.
Yet the mood of the round table, the subject of this month's lead feature, was that we are not yet in a good place. The Sinclair Brebner and Happy Valley cases, while certainly unusual, have shown that the wrong combination of circumstances can leave clients with no title and no apparent remedy, and any such outcome hardly shows the profession in a good light. Yet most of the time the public mood is to complain about the high level of legal fees and ask what lawyers do to justify them, even while solicitors feel that fees are being pushed to unrealistically low levels. And are we attracting enough younger lawyers into property practice to ensure the future of the profession in this field?
What is the way ahead was less clear. Some cast envious eyes at the way Danish property lawyers have managed to position themselves as the consumers' friends through forming their own association, helped by a big marketing budget. However there was disagreement over whether, if anything similar is attempted here, the Law Society of Scotland or some more or less autonomous subset of property lawyers would be best placed to drive it forward.
Winning, first, the interest, and then the support of MSPs and ministers for any further legislation is also easier said than done, given that it is a technical subject and suspicions tend to lurk amongst politicians that lawyers promote their own rather than the public interest.
However there was also a feeling that the profession itself is not sufficiently forward thinking – or perhaps alert – when it comes to pending change. It happened with the 2012 land registration regime, when many failed to grasp the implications of the loss of the Keeper's “Midas touch”, and some have since responded by looking round for scapegoats. It would be quite understandable if the average property lawyer, battle weary from all the change already taken on board, were to need a bit of persuading to go looking for more. Some of our panellists would sympathise. But these days it seems almost necessary to take initiatives in order to stay in the game.