Case for a national defence fund

Recently the Law Society announced they would be starting their defence fund scheme in November. This was encouraging news, but it raises a question about the Law Society's role in serving and protecting the interests of its members.

Clearly the leaders of the profession in Surrey and the South East believe there is a genuine demand for this kind of support service, providing guidance and representation on questions of ethics and conduct. So far, the majority of council members have paid scant attention to this area of growing concern.

The scheme proposed in 1997 in the Collett Report was a modest affair, providing partial cover as a preventative measure to help solicitors facing problems right at the start. It was turned down then, and again in 1998 because of the fear that adding £10 per annum to the practice certificate fee would further anger practitioners. Now the Surrey Scheme's annual premium is £150 for a much greater degree of cover. Evidently many solicitors are willing to pay that price.

Do the leaders of the Law Society still believe there is no demand for this kind of support? The advisers in Sol-Care, the Solicitors' Assistance Scheme, the Solicitors' Defence Agency, and the Scottish Legal Defence Union hear frequently from anxious solicitors seeking help. Many of the solicitors in the young members' and sole practitioners' groups and a number of associate members have similar problems.

The Law Society's leaders need to consider devising a scheme for a national defence fund, which should be put into effect with the minimum of delay.

Graham Cooke, RCT Beech, Jeffrey Gordon, Michael Buck, David Keating, David Savage.