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Pretoria - A legal battle has erupted between a company which said it has a business model which could deal with the day to day administrative aspects of property transfers and the legal fraternity, on the other hand, who says transfers are in law reserved to conveyances or legal practitioners.

Newly established company Proxi Smart Services Pty Ltd turned to the Gauteng High Court on Tuesday to get the blessing of the court to implement a business model for performing the administrative and related services pertaining to property transfers.

They want to take over the portion of the work that are not in law reserved to conveyances or legal practitioners. The company said it understood there were some aspects of transfers which required legal skill and they did not plan on venturing on this terrain.

According to them there are ordinary day to day work associated with property transfers which are now done by either secretaries or clerks working for law firms, which they (Proxi) could handle.

But the legal profession is adamant that it should be hands-off their conveyancing terrain. Various legal bodies, including the Law Society of South Africa (LSSA) and the various law societies across the country, as well Justice Minister Michael Masutha, are opposing the application.

Proxi on Monday asked a full bench (three judges) to declare that their business model does not contravene the Attorneys Act and the Deed Registries Act. 

The LSSA in turn launched a counter application for an order declaring Proxi’s model to be in contravention of, among others, the code of conduct for estate agents and the Consolidated Rules for the Attorneys Profession.

The view of the LSSA, the provincial law societies and the Attorneys Fidelity Fund, is that the proposal by Proxi cannot be supported as the full conveyancing process is regarded as professional work, and should remain so in the interest of the public since the public is protected through the Fidelity Fund.

But Proxi’s argument is that the administrative and related services relating to property transfers are not all law related and should thus not be exclusively reserved for conveyancers.

It was submitted that their model is lawful and does not contravene any of the legislative provisions as claimed by the LSSA. 

The law profession on the other had submitted that all work, of whatever nature associated with immovable transactions and transfers,  forms part of a conveyancing practice. 

This practice has developed over the centuries, they said, and because it called for a specific legal skill, it was exclusively reserved for conveyancers. 

Proxi, however, said the focus of their model is on the performance of non-reserved administrative services, such as obtaining certificates and documents from regulatory bodies such a municipalities and SARS and managing the interactions between the parties involved in the property transfer process. 

These functions, they said, are often performed by conveyancing secretaries and not by the attorneys themselves.

The LSSA, on the other hand, said the tasks a modern-day conveyancer and his or her staff perform, are not only defined by legislature, but also by long established practice.

It was said that conveyancing work required legal skill and it was not as simple as Proxi claimed it to be.

The case will proceed on Wednesday.

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