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IN-HOUSE lawyers may be forced to break away from the Law Society unless it supports the sector, warns the chairman of the society's commerce and industry group.
Paul Gilbert will tell the group's annual dinner that in-house lawyers, under pressure from budget-conscious companies, are starting to give up their practising certificates.
Gilbert, head of legal services at Cheltenham & Gloucester, says in-house lawyers may be forced to form their own body if the trickle of lawyers giving up their certificates becomes a flood.
He says: "We have regular enquiries from people saying: 'Do I need a practising certificate?', because someone running their company's budget is asking whether the £500 fee is necessary."
Gilbert argues that in-house and private practice lawyers are not in direct competition. In-house lawyers identify areas where companies are not covered, allowing them to outsource work, which benefits the whole profession, he says.
Gilbert is calling for the society to increase its current £12,600 annual funding of the commerce and industry group to promote the sector.
"The society is sitting on a goldmine," he says, "and if it doesn't wake up, it may not have access to that goldmine."