In brief: Cut in SIF contributions on the cards

Contribution rates to the Solicitors Indemnity Fund are likely to be reduced by around five per cent this year. In an oral report to the Law Society Council last week the fund's chair Andrew Kennedy said the projected reduction in contributions was due to management savings and returns on investment. The precise rates are due to be announced at the council's June meeting.

Legal aid for 'wealthy' under scrutiny

h The Government has announced plans to tighten the system of legal aid means assessment for the “apparently wealthy”. Responding to a question in the House of Lords last week the Lord Chancellor said he was planning to amend the system after receiving more than 50 responses to his December consultation paper on the subject. He said a “special investigation unit” should be established to handle assessments in both civil and criminal cases where the applicant's financial circumstances are “unusually complex”, and the Legal Aid Board had been invited to advise on the practical aspects of setting the unit up.

Law Soc rejects discrimination proposal

h The Law Society has shied away from proposals to monitor the ethnic make-up of all law firms although the equal opportunities policies of those taking on trainees will be monitored. The final proposals of the society's working party on discrimination dealing with monitoring procedures were approved by the Law Society Council last week. A report to the council said “serious consideration” was given to an annual check on all firms to monitor compliance to a new anti-discrimination practice rule but it was recognised that “not only did this have resource implications on the society and firms but the measure would be unwelcome within the profession”.

Boateng to challenge conditional fees

h Labour's legal affairs spokesman Paul Boateng MP says he will speak out against the draft regulations for conditional fees laid before the Commons last month unless the Government agrees to amend them to give greater consumer protection to litigants. Boateng says lawyers are in a “superior bargaining position” and litigants need greater protection. “Litigants, not lawyers, must be the principal beneficiary of the new scheme,” he says.

ABA conference plays host to big names

h Leading members of the UK legal profession have been signed to speak at this week's American Bar Association conference in London. Lord Chief Justice Taylor, Law Society president Charles Elly and Lords Woolf and Mackay will address the conference – 'New directions in civil litigation in England and the United States' – which opens at the Old Hall, Lincoln's Inn, on 1 May. Conference organisers say the five-day programme will deal with many of the key issues facing lawyers in the UK and US, including the latest developments in civil litigation.

Justices clerks head to Harrogate

h Members of the Justices Clerks' Society meet in Harrogate this week for the annual general meeting and conference entitled 'The way ahead'. The event, starting on 2 May and running until 5 May, will cover subjects including legal aid and the enforcement of financial penalties. The society is planning to publish proposals for changes in the law relating to financial penalties.

Elly declares Law Soc Bristol office open

h Law Society president Charles Elly (left) attended the official opening of the society's newest regional office, based at the Old Vic in Bristol. The office is run by south west regional secretary Matthew McKaig (middle). The ceremony was also attended by Neil Major (right), president of the Association of South Western Law Societies.