Firms look elsewhere as SIF work dries up

The Fourteen firms on the Solicitors’ Indemnity Fund (SIF) panel saw a downturn in work last year, with the insurer paying out £8m less in fees than the previous year.

SIF, the solicitors’ insurer which was owned by the Law Society, closed for new business in August 2000 and is now in run-off. In 2000-01, SIF paid £47.5m in panel fees, which reduced to £39.5m in 2001-02. SIF’s latest annual report reveals that the number of cases the insurer gave to panel firms reduced from 7,790 in 2000-01 to 5,438 in 2001-02.

Tim Brown, chairman of SIF panel firm Reynolds Porter Chamberlain, said that although SIF work is naturally dwindling, the firm has been buoyed by cases from other solicitors’ insurers. “In terms of SIF as a client, of course there is less work. In terms of professional indemnity work, there are enough cases coming from the open market. We’ve been in recession for some time, something which will always unearth fresh claims,” he said.

SIF’s investment portfolio dropped from £459m to £360m, mainly because the cost of settlements last year exceeded its income now the mutual is in run-off.

The firms on SIF’s panel are: Barlow Lyde & Gilbert, Bond Pearce, Browne Jacobson, Beachcroft Wansbroughs, Cripps Harries Hall, Crutes, Fishburns, Morgan Cole, Henmans, Lovells, James Chapman & Co, Mills & Reeve, Reynolds Porter Chamberlain and Weightmans.

Two of the firms on the panel, Fishburns and Morgan Cole, were originally on the panel as one firm – Fishburn Morgan Cole – until they demerged last year.