LOCAL buyers of mainland property who suffer losses due to their lawyers' negligence are to be guaranteed compensation, following an agreement between the Law Society and insurers. The Society's professional indemnity scheme now offers protection for a client even if his lawyer does not have the money to pay for damages, or has disappeared. The scheme's main purpose is to insure lawyers so they can pay compensation to clients or reimburse them. But confusion over whether the scheme covers just businesses under Hongkong law has led the Law Society to seek an urgent meeting with the insurers. Some society members are concerned about liability as real estate regulations accompanying China's booming property market are not well developed. The chairman of the scheme, Mr Gallant Ho Yiu-tai, said members were concerned whether services with ''an element of extra-territorial practice'' would be covered. ''The position taken by the insurer is that if the solicitor in his Hongkong office renders services which touches on a foreign jurisdiction, he is covered by the scheme,'' he explained. The maximum amount per claim is $5 million. Mr Ho said the insurers' confirmation was a statement of general principle and did not relate to any particular country although their main concern had been about mainland property purchases. There are 48 Hongkong lawyers appointed by China to act as attesting officers to notarise documents in mainland property deals on behalf of Hongkong clients. But some claim their main duty is to witness the signing of documents, rather than check through papers. The inconsistency in functions has sparked concern among politicians and legal experts. Mr Ho said to be sure of the protection, the public should complete their legal documents in Hongkong. ''The contracts should be signed in the Hongkong offices because after all, it is services rendered by Hongkong firms,'' Mr Ho said. ''It is a matter of prudence. I wouldn't advise the solicitors concerned to suggest to clients that they go to their China branch offices to sign such documents.'' The Law Society has sent a notice to members reminding them to be more careful in conducting extra-territorial businesses. ''They should not go in blindly. They should seek local counsel's view, backed up by local legal opinion,'' he said. Mr Ho, also the chairman of the Association of China-appointed Attesting Officers, said their duty went beyond witnessing the signing of documents. They were also responsible for the content of the documents. As China was a big country and local regulations were just beginning to develop, practitioners should familiarise themselves with the detailed regulations and rules and codified laws. ''Our association does not encourage our members to go into some work blindly and single-handedly, they have to rely on local counsel,'' Mr Ho said. ''So if I were to do some real estate work in China and I don't do it by going hand in hand with a attorney there, then I am exposing myself to unnecessary risk and I may be negligent.'' There were 87 claims notified in the indemnity year ending on 30 September last year - an increase from 69 in the previous year. More than 42 per cent of the claims, or 37 cases, arose from conveyancing. The total amount paid from the fund last year in respect of claims from earlier years amounted to $3.2 million.