'Misled' by the Law Society

The Milton Keynes and District Law Society responded to the solicitors' indemnity consultation questionnaire having digested all the information then available.

The thrust of the Law Society's representation to local societies and members was that a mutual fund was not only cost-effective but had the overwhelming support of members.

While we in Milton Keynes had serious reservations, particularly about the effect proposals would have on small firms – of which there are many in this city – we resolved to support the continuation of the Solicitor's Indemnity Fund (SIF).

With hindsight, this was a disservice to our members because my council is now unanimously of the view that we were fundamentally misled by the representations made by or on behalf of the Law Society.

Significantly, the consultation period, with which we complied, ended days before our members were circulated with the 1998/9 assessments. In many cases the assessments will make practices financially unviable.

The motivation in not extending the consultation period until after these assessments had been issued is a matter of considerable concern as undoubtedly the council, its advisory committee and SIF itself must have known well in advance how the proposed formula would affect member firms.

Recent attempts by the council, its advisers and SIF to stem the tide of criticism merely serves to prove their inability to understand or manage the complexities of indemnity insurance.

Little seems to have been learnt from past mismanagement of the fund, and the credibility of both the fund and the Law Society Council in this regard has evaporated.

The integrity of any consultation is valueless in the absence of a full and frank disclosure of information. Subsequent comments from the profession have proved this, and while the society still subscribes to the view that all practising solicitors should be fully covered for all types of legal work, open market insurance can now be the only way

forward.

Kristine Pratt, president, Milton Keynes and District Law Society