SIF contributions slammed as extortionate by small firms

A group comprised mainly of sole practitioners has been set up to campaign for the abolition of the Solicitors Indemnity Fund (SIF).

The Millennium Law Group of about 60 solicitors is pressing for the Law Society council to call an extraordinary general meeting, open to all members of the society, where it will demand an independent investigation into the formation and conduct of SIF over its 10-year history.

It is also offering to help solicitors find cheaper insurance than SIF's on the open market.

Sole practitioner Wendy Gray, who set up the group and has refused to pay her SIF contribution for last year, said she had made a 25 per cent saving by insuring with French-owned indemnity firm Norman Insurance.

Gray said: “Many members of the group are desperate. They are being forced out of business… the liabilities imposed on solicitors by this fund are totally open-ended and unlimited. In order to be able to continue to trade we are being forced to find a viable commercial alternative.”

A member of the group, a partner in a three-partner commercial firm, said his SIF bill was more than £130,000 this year but he had been quoted £37,000 on the open market. He said: “SIF involves paying a ruinously expensive amount of money.”

Initially, the group intends to liaise with other anti-SIF organisations such as the November group of City firms and the Solicitors Property Group, but Gray did not rule out separate legal challenges to SIF.

Michael Dalton, a sole practitioner currently judicially reviewing SIF's claims loading rules, is a member of the Millennium Law group.

A spokesman for the Law Society said: “Grouping together has saved these people on postage, but it is not a big deal for us. We will listen to a whole range of views and make a decision that is best for the whole profession.”