EDITORIAL: LSK must crack the whip on errant lawyers

The Law Society of Kenya’s move to sanction lawyers colluding with property developers to impose their services on buyers is timely. But it will not go far enough if the lawyers are not closely monitored.

The property market is booming, attracting many lawyers who are now striking deals with property sellers to get a share the lucrative conveyance sector.

Such deals have left the buyers at the mercy of lawyers or law firms whose names come with the property offer letters.

Some buyers are lucky to get a list of many lawyers or law firms to choose from, some just have one. Buyers are left with no choice, but to pick the one lawyer they know little about. This infringes on consumer rights, denying buyers an opportunity to pick lawyers of their choice.

LSK plans to take disciplinary action on those whose names are in the property agreements, citing the conveyance practice as violating the right to independent counsel and legal aice.

As the imposed law firms are usually tasked with facilitating the deal and transfer of title deeds, this opens loopholes for unscrupulous property sellers to increase the conveyance fees or offer illegal land titles.

The property sector is laden with ingenuity and Kenyans should at least be given the option of choosing their own lawyers who can do due diligence on the property lawyers who the buyer can hold accountable if the deal goes sour.

Lawyers are also known to disregard such warnings. That Kenyans can lodge complaints at the Aocates Complaints Commission at Sheria House or the Aocates Disciplinary Tribunal at LSK secretariat will go a long way in enforcing the directive.

Hardest of all will be cutting through the thicket of such deals and educating Kenyans on their rights.

Last year, Chief Justice Willy Mutunga published the Aocates (Remuneration) (Amendment) Order 2014, reviewing the lawyers’ fees. The regulations raised the fees charged by aocates by about 40 per cent especially in services such as conveyance, filing of suits, registration of trademarks and debt collection.

The regulations prohibits aocates from getting into deals with clients which allow them to charge lower fees or higher than the prescribed fees. Some lawyers, however, charge fees at rates at low as 0.5 per cent to lure clients.

LSK has taken steps in the right direction, but it needs to further track down those violating the rules.