SIF: "figures not skewed'

Your front page story "Law Society figures skewed…" (7 April) suggests that the Solicitors Indemnity Fund and the Law Society have misled the profession. You imply that the information contained in the society's consultation papers has been deliberately skewed in our favour. Nothing could be further from the truth.

SIF supplied the society with the profiles of 58 actual firms in order that an accurate and genuine comparison could be made between the rates of the mutual fund and the market. These 58 firms did not represent a statistically representative sample of the profession for a very good reason. We believed it would be useful for the profession to see as many different examples as possible so we put forward a wide spread of firms according to size, work profile and claims experience rather than weighting the whole sample with firms earning comparatively low gross fees.

It should be appreciated that nearly 6,000 firms (60 per cent) earn gross fees of less than £250,000. Had our sample been strictly representative, it would have produced too many quotations virtually indistinguishable from each other.

Your story suggests that, in an effort to make SIF look good, we deliberately chose firms who contribute to the fund a lower than average percentage of their annual turnover. It is true the overall rate on gross fee income last year was 3.6 per cent, whereas the overall rate for the 58 firms in our sample was only 1.75 per cent. This was simply because we included six of the larger firms in the sample. If those six are taken out, the average rate rises to 4.l5 per cent well above the average for the profession.

Given that it is the large firms who argue most frequently that they will get a better deal in the open market, how could we possibly be serving our own interest by including so many of them in our sample?

We can all play the "lies, damned lies and statistics" game, but fortunately none of us can change the facts. SIF has long maintained that a mutual fund can provide the most cost-effective and comprehensive cover for the profession as a whole and for the majority of individual firms. Now, independent surveys are backing this view up and those with a personal axe to grind, quite understandably, don't like it!

Elizabeth Mullins

Managing director, SIF.

Editor's note: Although our story suggested the figures were skewed, at no point did we claim this had been done deliberately.