HOME-BUYERS in big housing projects may have their legal fees discounted under a Law Society proposal. Society president Roderick Woo Bun said the fees solicitors charged for conveyancing - transferring ownership of a property - and other non-contentious business were being reviewed. The overhaul was partly triggered by forthcoming land registration legislation which aimed to revolutionise conveyancing and reduce legal fees. Bar Association chairman Jacqueline Leong QC criticised the so-called ''scale fee'' - the minimum lawyers are allowed to charge for conveyancing - as ''pure protectionism''. ''A scale fee forbids a solicitor charging less than a certain amount and does not allow free market forces to operate. That is very wrong,'' Miss Leong said. ''The Law Society should think about an audit of conveyancing fees to see what sort of profit they make out of scale fees. If those charges turn out to be unduly high, it should consider either removing the scale fee or reducing it severely. ''I hear some solicitors are earning $40 million to $50 million a year net of tax. If the figure is right, it seems to be unnecessary to have scale fees.'' Mr Woo, however, said buyers at the lower end of the market might have to pay more money if the scale fee was abolished because their homes were older and lawyers would have to check many more leases and deeds to ensure the properties were good. For a big housing project which provides similar flats on the same land, Mr Woo said there was a case for lower charges because the workload for lawyers was much lower. ''We are considering whether there should be a special category under the scale fee system for large housing projects.'' Mr Woo hoped the review of scale fees would be completed in time to coincide with the introduction of the Land Registration Bill so that major changes in conveyancing practices could be made at the same time. Under the bill, properties registered with the Land Registry will be deemed good, saving lawyers checking the leases. But until the registered system comes in, Mr Woo said scale fees would give home-buyers certainty as to how much they would have to pay in legal fees. Mr Woo said the committee responsible for setting and revising scale fees should meet more often if the present system requiring lawyers to check chains of leases was to continue. The committee, chaired by a High Court judge and with three of the six members from the legal profession, has not met for a year. ''The committee should be pro-active in revising the scales according to the workload on lawyers for conveyancing,'' Mr Woo said. The Law Society will also propose to the administration to broaden the membership of the committee to include a lay person. ''We have approached the Consumer Council to see if they are interested in sitting on the committee. If they want to, we will put the suggestion to the Government,'' Mr Woo said. ''This will also ensure the Law Society will be the minority on the committee and could not dictate the scale of fee we are charging.''