SCB pay-outs go through the roof

LATEST figures from the Law Society reveal that pay-outs from the Solicitors' Complaints Bureau reached an historic high in 1993 – but dishonesty and shoddy work will ensure the record is broken again in 1994.

Solicitors spent u23 million last year bailing out their professional colleagues – up by more than 50 per cent on 1992. But the figure this year is expected to hit u30 million.

Chris Heaps, chair of the Law Society's adjudication and appeals committee, says last year's down-turn in applications to the fund has reversed.

Speaking at the launch of the Bureau's annual report, he said the pay out level was expected to rise by about one third.

The report highlights initiatives taken by the bureau to clamp down on fraudulent solicitors and to recover costs.

It reveals a 15 per cent jump in the number of complaints to the bureau with the figure for 1993 at nearly 20,000. About 80 per cent of complaints related to poor service, including delay and bad communication.

SCB director Veronica Lowe said the public was making higher demands of its professional advisers.

“Recessionary pressures and structural changes also play their part in increasing the level of complaints,” she said.

Heaps stressed there were tens of millions of transactions each year and that 19,582 complaints was a tiny proportion.

“We should remember that the vast majority of solicitors are honest professionals committed to the highest standards,” he said.

The bureau intervened in 85 firms last year, an increase of 20 per cent on the 1992 figure. There were 230 referrals to the Solicitors' Disciplinary Tribunal. The SCB recovered u166,000 of its costs from disciplinary proceedings and u3.8 million for the Solicitors'Compensation Fund.