FTC Votes to Authorize Amicus Brief On the Question of Non-lawyers Performing Various Real Estate Settlement Functions
May 26, 2004
Commission authorization of the staff to file amicus brief: The Commission has authorized the filing of a joint amicus brief with the Department of Justice in McMahon v. Advanced Title Services Company of West Virginia, a case before the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. The case concerns an opinion by the West Virginia State Bar Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee that would prohibit non-lawyers from performing various real estate settlement functions – including title searching, title reports, closings, and document deliveries.
According to the joint brief, the state's Supreme Court of Appeals should reverse the lower court's decision, which adopts the State Bar opinion. The brief argues that allowing lay service providers to compete with lawyers in the provision of real estate settlement services is likely to benefit West Virginia consumers in a variety of ways. In addition, the brief states that there is no empirical evidence of likely harm to consumers from allowing non-lawyer settlements. Finally, according to the brief, even if the State Supreme Court was to find that the current protection afforded to consumers is insufficient, it could accomplish such consumer protection goals in a less-restrictive manner than by banning all lay closings.