WATCHING Dale Turner face his single moment of truth, after two long years plotting to overthrow the solicitors’ monopoly over conveyancing in Queensland, was almost unbearable.
The painful mix of intensity, expectation and dread etched into his forehead, suitably situated above the shoulders upon which hopes of thousands of conveyancers rested, as he was handed the judgement, illustrated a portrait of one ready for anything.
But as those very shoulders began to slump and the hands clasping verdict stopped trembling, it was clear his valiant battle in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) was lost.
“They’ve turned us down”, was his first utterance following the crash of reality.
While Turner was coming to grips with the decision’s enormity, on top of having to inform a flood of hopefuls over his mobile of the failure, lawyers in Queensland breathed a sigh of relief.
Like Turner, the Queensland Law Society (QLS) embraced the matter with the utmost vigour.
The guild joined itself with the Supreme Court in defence of his application and engaged high profile Queensland law firm McCullough Robertson to do its bidding.
Upon being informed of the success via Lawyers Weekly, president Glenn Ferguson described the decision as a victory for “the integrity of the profession.
“Lawyers provide the best service, we’re fully regulated and fully insured,” he said.
But most importantly, according to the solicitors, they do it cost-effectively. In fact, it is claimed that conveyancing rates are so competitive at the moment that it’s hardly profitable anymore.
“Following the disappearance of fixed fee scales, the cost cutting to conveyancing has been incredible,” said Ferguson, who recounted quotes in the $200 to $300 vicinity.
Asked why he thought conveyancers were so determined to muscle their way in, he replied: “They must know something I don’t. I have no idea. You just won’t survive doing it alone anymore. Most firms who still do it are only doing so as a service to their clients, because there’s just no money to be made.”
His opposite at the Australian Institute of Conveyancers, Jill Ludwell, thinks such scenarios, along with claims that rural Queensland solicitors will disappear if her brethren come in, are simply “rubbish”.
“That’s [the solicitors’] problem if they want to expose themselves to cutting each other’s throats,” she said “What about other states? There are still solicitors and conveyancers practising side-by-side in the bush.”
Turner puts it more strongly: “Solicitors are just too cowardly to compete with people who are equally as competent as they are.”