The Law Society Gazette reports that new criteria adopted by mortgage lenders to control the membership of their conveyancing panels have piled further pressure on smaller firms struggling to stay in the market.

The Gazette has learned that Metro Bank and Newcastle Building Society are among the institutions that have introduced new restrictions. They now require firms to have at least 120 purchase completions registered with Land Registry over the past 12 months.

The change follows a linkup between several lenders and the conveyancing outsourcer Legal Marketing Services, which claims to promote a ‘more responsible’ approach to panel selections. Some solicitors fear that the requirement for a defined number of transactions will prevent many smaller conveyancing firms from joining or remaining on panels.

Jonathan Smithers, president of the Law Society, said: ‘The number of transactions a firm has completed, particularly for smaller firms, does not necessarily indicate the quality of that firm’s work.

‘We would urge lenders to look at qualitative indicators such as membership of the Conveyancing Quality Scheme when selecting firms.’