Law Society increases practising fees ahead of HQ refurb

The Law Society is looking to renovate its Carey Street offices at the same time as increasing its practising certificate fees for solicitors by nearly 5 per cent.

The Law Society has entered into pre-planning exploratory talks with Camden Council about improving its Carey Street offices, just off Chancery Lane, after getting approval from the Law Society Council in November 2011. The offices are currently split into small rooms, creating an awkward working environment, according to one employee at the body.

The news comes as the Law Society Council has approved a near 5 per cent rise in practising certificate fees, the equivalent of £16, from £328 to £344. This rise comes after a 23 per cent fall in 2011 (14 July 2011).

A spokesperson for the Law Society said there was no link between the pre-planning talks and the rise, and said: “The modest costs for this exercise have been met from existing budgets only and don’t place any additional requirement for a [practising certificate] increase. Any decision to actually go forward with any of the proposed works will go back to council for approval and that will take account of any financial implications.”

According to a statement by Law Society chief executive Desmond Hudson, the fee increase was down to IT projects that cost more than expected and was necessary to replenish funding reserves.

“The funding requirement to meet the budget for 2013 would have been just over £100m, but during the current year, the Law Society group has accessed £10m from reserves, mainly to meet overrun costs on certain IT projects,” said Hudson. “In order to gradually rebuild those reserves, the proposed 2013 net funding requirement has been set at £103.5m. The alternative, to replenish those reserves in one go with a large increase in the PC fee, would have placed an unnecessary burden on the profession.”

The Law Society council this month also approved an SRA recommendation to increase Compensation Fund contributions for individuals from £60 to £92 and for firms from £722 to £1,340. Costs rose to ensure that the SRA had sufficient funds to cover predicted claims and minimuse the liklihood of having to seek further funding, according to SRA chief executive Antony Townsend.