“We don't know which way to jump'

Most people only attend Law Society meetings if they are made to. Yet 150 filled the Lyttleton Theatre on a balmy night in Birmingham last Wednesday for the first “roadshow” debate on the future of the Solicitors Indemnity Fund, writes Shaun Pye.

Some went to bury it, a handful rallied round to rescue it, but the majority were simply trying to understand how SIF, with its £432m shortfall, could be in such a crisis.

Law Society council member John Appleby kicked off by outlining his idea for a revamped “multi-fund” mutual insurance fund, then Freshfields consultant George Ritchie advocated allowing firms to go to the open market for their insurance.

Finally Liz Mullins, managing director of SIF, ripped through what must be a well-rehearsed defence of the fund.

While her fellow speakers used simple visual displays, Mullins gave us line graphs, bar charts and tables.

Many subsequent questions were preceded by lengthy rants – “incompetent”, “shoddy” and “disgrace” the favoured descriptions of SIF.

“The idea of keeping SIF when they have run up a half billion pound shortfall is unpalatable,” said one member of the audience.

But most questioners simply wanted more information. How much will the open market cost my firm? Tell us more because we genuinely don't know which way to jump, they said.

There are nine more “roadshows” – London is sold out.