Negative image of sole practitioners challenged

Solicitors working on their own are unfairly labelled as dishonest and incompetent by both the public and the legal profession, said newly appointed Sole Practitioners Group chairman Tim Readman.

A sole practitioner for 16 years, Readman claimed the publishing in the legal and national press of a few high-profile cases of sole practitioners behaving badly had given a distorted view of SPG members.

The Plymouth solicitor said the only way to counter such images was to hammer home the point that it was a few who were soiling the name of many.

SPG members were suffering at the hands of building societies due to the nature of the Compensatory Fund, which all solicitors pay into, but which only makes discretionary payments to clients, unlike the Solicitors Indemnity Fund, said Readman.

A survey of building societies by the SPG nine months ago showed 70 per cent of those who replied were reluctant to give work to sole practitioners, with the Compensatory Fund being one of the main reasons for this attitude.

Readman, who is taking over from former chair John Lymbury, said the SPG was pushing for the merger of both funds but talks were still at an early stage.

Despite these problems, there are more than 5,000 sole practitioners in England and Wales and their numbers are growing.