What is surprising about the complaints about SIF is that no one queries why a professional and constitutional service should run up hundreds of millions of pounds of claims in the first place.
A few years ago the £5,000 excess was changed to disguise the rising millions; now the call is for private insurance. As solicitors in personal injury business frequently complain about the sums private insurers are prepared to spend to prevent claims, perhaps private indemnity insurance is perceived as being the great protector?
If any employee in a normal business ran up the numbers SIF pay out over solicitors' conduct they would be sacked.
If large firms of solicitors have fewer claims paid out against them it is more to do with their contacts in the system than good conduct. Private insurers will thus be able to tap into such contacts if they replace SIF – causing a serious loss of independence for the profession.
The best way of preserving independence and preventing business being compromised is to stick with SIF but to change the investigating and adjudicating system. Have the courage to hand it over to a separate, independent body and effective accountability will bring down claims. A mutual fund can only work economically in the long term if the investigators are not mutual. After all, it is through our processes that we protect, or abuse, our liberties.
The current system is like leaking "Chinese Walls" and serves only to protect large firms – which is why City firms can seek, and will complement, private indemnity insurance.