Solicitors in England and Wales will be ordered to cough up at least £21m between them over the next three years and thereafter to strengthen the Law Society's ability to regulate the profession
City solicitors alone will contribute an extra £3.75m over the next three years to beef up the OSS's ability to investigate and weed out corrupt solicitors. Law Society Council members voted last Thursday (10 October) to hand the beleaguered Office for the Supervision of Solicitors (OSS) the extra cash. The entire £21m will be paid for by increases to the practising certificate (PC) fee, which currently stands at £650. Every solicitor in England and Wales will pay an extra £85 on the PC fee in 2003, an extra £100 in 2004 and an extra £65 in 2005 and thereafter. This will total an extra OSS contribution of £7.1m in 2003, £8.5m in 2004 and up to £5.4m in subsequent years. Solicitors saw the PC fee rise by a whopping 31 per cent, from £495 to £650, last July (The Lawyer, 23 July 2001). This rise was designed to help pay off the Law Society's estimated £5m defecit and itself saw City solicitors contributing an extra £2.3m a year to the professional body. Government legal services ombudsman Ann Abraham has been vocal in her criticism of the Law Society's complaints handling record in recent years. This summer she said that only 58 per cent of last year's complaints were dealt with satisfactorily by the OSS, whose work she described as "consistently shaky".