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The Law Society is yet again delaying a final decision over the future of professional indemnity, leaving the fate of the Solicitors Indemnity Fund hanging in the balance.
Council members voted at a meeting last week to delay - until the first week of March - a decision on proposals to dismantle SIF and implement a master policy alongside an approved open-market scheme.
The move follows criticism by council members that the late entry of the master policy proposal, sent to members less than a week before the meeting, hinders a well-considered decision on professional indemnity.
Michael Mathews, president at the Law Society, says: "We initially expected that there would be a final decision, in principle, at this meeting."
He adds: "But further work should be done. If the council did make a decision we would be failing in our duty."
However, council member Mike Howells says the society should be willing to make a decision now. "There are no more excuses for inaction. We have got to come to a conclusion on this," he says.
The master policy came to light at the eleventh hour and was favoured by the policy committee as a solution to the debate which has been raging for over two years, signalling an end to SIF (The Lawyer, 18 January, page 5).
According to Mathews, in the run-up to the next meeting - which he proposes should be held before the special general meeting on 2 March - the Law Society intends to consult the profession and commercial insurers over costing details.
Mathews also insists that after a decision is taken in March, a new scheme should be introduced when the indemnity year begins in September.
However, Frank Maher, divisional managing partner at Weightmans says: "The Law Society has to grasp the nettle and make the decision. The uncertainty is damaging the profession."
Howells also put forward, and lost, an amendment to rej-ect any proposals in the council recommendations for a levy.
The levy, which was not favoured by the Policy Committee, could be adopted if a mutual fund ran in tandem with approved open market insurance, and would mean all solicitors would have to pay money towards the mutual, even if they opted out.