In-house lawyers across Scotland have hit out at the Scottish government’s intention to forge ahead with a flat-rate levy to fund the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC).
The SLCC, which will deal with all service complaints against legal practitioners, is due to come into force next October. It is expected to cost around £3m a year to run and will be funded entirely by the levies it collects from legal practitioners. The exact level of the annual fee is still being worked out, but is expected to be in the region of £300 per lawyer.
Colin Anderson, vice-chairman of the Law Society of Scotland’s In-house Lawyers Group, said many of the country’s 2,500 in-housers feel the levy is unfair as it will come on top of the £735 already payable to the Law Society.
“The great majority of complaints are not against in-house lawyers, but against private practitioners,” said Anderson. “When the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007 was passing through Parliament, in-house lawyers tried to say they should be exempt from the levy, but the Scottish government would have nothing of it.”
However, the SLCC’s interim chief executive Richard Smith, who will hold the role until the commission gets up and running, admitted that the one-size-fits-all levy discriminates unfairly against in-housers.
“The act makes no distinction between practitioners,” he said. “With hindsight I’d agree that it’s unfortunate, because not all have the same exposure to clients and, therefore, complaints.
“The act does allow some provisions to waive some portions of the levy, so we could get to a situation where one group of practitioners pays more so the other can pay less. However, the onus must be on the profession to recommend to the commission how the waiver provision could be applied.”