Report signs SIF death warrant

The Solicitors Indemnity Fund (SIF) is facing abolition in the light of a planned introduction of a master policy of insurance to run alongside an open market scheme.

The master policy means the Law Society would buy personal indemnity from commercial insurers to cover the legal profession, as opposed to the current mutual fund.

The option is covered in a supplementary report drawn up by insurance consultancy Aon Risk Services that examines the viability of a mutual fund, SIF, existing alongside a system of approved insurers.

David McNeill, spokesman for the Law Society, says a master scheme will mean an end to SIF. But he adds: “Aon envisages keeping the structure of SIF as a claim handling service. The mechanics would be kept in place.”

However, a spokeswoman for SIF says: “All options should be considered but this is not a best of both worlds compromise. It is a path leading solely to the market with all its inherent risks and uncertainties.”

The options outlined in the report are subject to approval at a society council meeting on 20 January. However it is widely expected that a final decision will not be reached until March. The additional option of a master scheme has not yet been raised.

In Aon's first report, a system of levies was outlined where all solicitors would pay a fee “in addition to their indemnity arrangements”.

However, McNeill says: “We envisage there are practical difficulties with this issue.”

Paul Clements, a partner at Radcliffs and a member of the working party at the November Meeting Group, which is campaigning against compulsory professional indemnity, says: “It would appear that from recommending a levy the profession is unlikely to agree to, Aon now suggests a master policy that seems to replace one monopoly with another.”