SIF debacle threatens Law Society's future

At first people got angry. Then they started to laugh. Now they are getting hysterical and turning to the law to try and get their own way. The row over the Solicitors Indemnity Fund (SIF) has had more twists, turns, victims and villains than a John Grisham novel. We only wish it was even half as glamorous.

There has been an abundance of chest-beating, histrionics and machinations – we even had the bizarre situation of City representative and SIF director George Staple voting to keep SIF even though his City of London Law Society voted to scrap it – but the whole saga has been characterised by a complete lack of rigorous debate on the issue of insuring on the open market.

What has occurred instead is a series of outrageous fudges by the Law Society, threats by the anti-SIF November Group and plenty of tilting at windmills by lone high-street solicitors. The Law Society decision – by 32 votes to 29 – to keep the fund is not a mandate and continues to leave the profession bitterly divided.

Meanwhile, the November Group, whose very name gives it the feel of a Greek terrorist organisation, seems to have caught the high street litigious bug. It has started bandying around the possibility of legal action against SIF itself if it is pushed too far.

As it stands, it is a disgrace that 10 Law Society representatives did not turn up to vote on the most important issue affecting solicitors this decade. And the fact that the following day council members proposed that they get paid for making such appaling decisions only serves to rub salt into the wound.

But what is happening now is much more disturbing. The profession has got over its Law Society fatigue syndrome and is starting to be more proactive in its objections to the way the society is handling, or not handling the profession's concerns.

The Law Society is now facing the biggest challenge in its history – and that, ironically, is in the form of legal action against it by its own members.