SIF and pro bono: it is time to act

For some time now, this newspaper has regularly been running stories about two vital issues which affect solicitors throughout the country – the Solicitors Indemnity Fund crisis and the initiative to establish a national solicitors' pro bono scheme.

For years, The Lawyer has been asking the Law Society to provide leadership on pro bono provision. Exactly a year ago, we revealed the initiative by a group of leading solicitors – who were frustrated by the Law Society's inability to take a lead on pro bono work – to establish its own scheme.

Since then, this newspaper has carried a series of reports on the progress of the Solicitors Pro Bono Unit and revealed the recent establishment of dedicated pro bono units at Lovell White Durrant and Linklaters.

The profession cannot afford to pretend that pro bono work is a side issue. Solicitors up and down the country carry out such work. Surely the least they can expect is support and help from their professional body.

This week we are launching our own campaign – Pro Bono Watch – to show our continuing commitment to a national, co-ordinated pro bono scheme.

The Lawyer is also launching a second campaign – SIF in Crisis. Again, this represents a pledge to keep the spotlight on an issue that affects solicitors throughout the country.

Solicitors who face massive rises in contributions want to know how the Law Society allowed the crisis to develop and what it is going to do about it. Even abolishing the fund and allowing solicitors to obtain their indemnity insurance on the open market should not be ruled out.

Solicitors deserve an explanation of what is going on – after all, they are the ones who are paying for it.