£96m Law Society budget approved

The Law Society Council yesterday (Thursday, 24 February) approved the latest version of the society’s 2005 budget, which proposes a practising certificate fee of £1,017.

The budget takes into account increased costs of regulating the solicitors’ profession, caused through implementing changes required by Sir David Clementi’s recent regulatory review. This includes an anticipated increase in complaints handling to £6.1m, a rise of 49 per cent.

If all the society’s cash requirements – totalling £95.8m – are to be met through the practising certificate fee, it will rise by 23 per cent from 2004’s £830 to £1,017.

However, some of the expenditure could be paid for by using the society’s reserves if it is released from a commitment to pension scheme trustees that they will not be diminished.

A valuation of the 2004 pension fund is awaited, following which the society could be released from the commitment. Significant one-off costs for the transfer of the society’s ICT system to a new structure, totalling £2.8m, could then be paid for by setting a deficit budget.

If reserves are boosted by a transfer from the £54m Solicitors Indemnity Fund surplus announced last week, the cost of restructuring the society to comply with Clementi’s proposals could also be met by a deficit budget.

In that case the practising certificate fee would be £955, still a rise of £125 from 2004. The final fee will be set in July this year, and the budget will be reviewed again in April.