City lawyers threaten to take legal action over SIF

A GROUP of City and commercial lawyers is threatening to take the Law Society to court over its decision to retain SIF's monopoly.

A spokeswoman for anti-SIF campaigners the November Meeting Group says prominent silk Michael Beloff QC has been consulted, and he believes it has a strong case for taking SIF to judicial review for breaching European law.

But, she says, the group is considering pressing ahead with legal action after the Law Society council voted by the narrow margin of 32 to 29 in favour of keeping a mutual. It ignored the recommendation of its own Interim Executive Committee to scrap SIF and allow lawyers to insure through a master policy or on the open market.

November Meeting Group chairman Christopher Hales, a partner at Holman Fenwick & Willan, says: “My initial reaction was one of astonishment that it went against the expert advice of the market and its own IEC. But, on reflection, I'm not surprised, since our case was based on logic and sound market reasoning and I had no confidence that the majority of the council would be swayed by such arguments.”

Another band of anti-SIF solicitors, the Millennium Group, is urging all lawyers to back Portsmouth-based solicitor Michael Dalton, who is taking the Law Society to court over SIF.

Spokeswoman for the group, Wendy Gray, says: “I would encourage people to get behind Dalton and make sure he is successful. There can only be one challenge.”

Dalton says the council's decision is “unbelievably arrogant”, and has pledged to pursue his case to the bitter end. His day in the High Court – set for 24 March – is likely to be postponed until at least May or June, as one day is not enough time to hear all the arguments.

After Tuesday's vote, a Law Society special general meeting called by the Millennium Group voted for a postal ballot of the profession to determine whether people want freedom of choice regarding indemnity cover.

However, the result does not bind the council, and a senior Law Society source told The Lawyer it was unlikely to reconsider its decision unless there was an overwhelming majority – around 70 per cent – in favour of scrapping SIF.