The SIF shortfall – Law Soc downfall?

The Law Society has been lurching from crisis to crisis in recent times. The Regis project, communication problems with the profession, the High Street Starter Kit, and squabbling at Chancery Lane have done nothing to instill confidence in the average solicitor that the profession is in safe hands.

However, the mother of all crises has to be the Solicitors Indemnity Fund (SIF) debacle. That solicitors can collectively end up being responsible for a £500m bill, which is rising by the day, is a problem that cannot simply be talked away.

The average firm of 2.6 partners is facing a bill for £44,000, give or take exemptions, to cover the shortfall alone. Such an amount will put a heavy financial burden on each and every practice, but particularly on the smaller ones, which are already struggling to keep their businesses together.

The message for solicitors is that they cannot trust their governing body to get it right. So it is no surprise that they are distinctly uninterested in Law Society elections or initiatives undertaken by the Law Society.

Disasters are occurring on a regular basis at Chancery Lane, yet those in charge seem to be under the illusion that their only problem is their inability to get the Law Society message, whatever that may be, across.

However, the scale of the SIF affair is such that it will alert even the most uninterested solicitors to the goings-on at Chancery Lane. Despite the fact that solicitors themselves were ultimately responsible for incurring the debt, surely those charged with monitoring the profession bear the responsibility for not sounding the alarm.

There are enough well-paid officials (800 or so) to do so, and their failure hardly builds confidence in the society's ability to deal with the myriad other issues that come its way.