Thursday, April 09, 2009

Law Society protests SLCC's 'Penman levy' of £275 per solicitor

The Law Society of Scotland, ever so quick to protest about anything, is ‘disappointed’ in the recent budget proposals of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission., which show that each solicitor will be paying a "Penman Levy" of around £275 to fund the commission's complaints work, while advocates will pay around £223.

The term "Penman Levy" comes from the notorious case of Borders solicitor Andrew Penman, who ruined deceased client's estates and the resulting scandals which embroiled the Law Society are widely thought to have led to new legislation and the formation of the SLCC to counter the Law Society's scandal hit Client Relations department view of regulating 'crooked lawyers' in Scotland.

The SLCC submitted its budget to Parliament yesterday, 8 April 2009 for approval, but the Law Society managed to get its protest in a few days earlier … (and we note the SLCC budget was submitted while Parliament is on Easter recess – less media focus that way ? – Ed)

The Law Society release :

Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) & other changes in regulation

The Society is disappointed in the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) budget for 2009/10.

While recognising that cuts in the levy rates have been made by the SLCC for the forthcoming year, the Society believes further reductions should have been made to its budget.

Chief Executive Lorna Jack said:

The Society has structured its budget for this year to reflect the impact the recession is having on its members. We believe the SLCC should have done likewise and budgeted in order to reduce levy rates and help ease the financial burden on solicitors in the current climate.

The Society supports changes such as removal of the £200 charge for mediation and is pleased the SLCC accepted our view that solicitors working outwith Scotland should pay a reduced rate of £91 per annum. For solicitors with 3 + years experience the annual levy cost is £275.

However we think SLCC’s level of reserves are unnecessarily high given the nature of the organisation, and proposals for salary increases are inappropriate at a time when many organisations, including the Society, have implemented a salary freeze for 2009/10.

The Society also expressed concern over the doubling of the case levies which can be imposed on solicitors. We are fully aware of the ‘polluter pays’ principle which underpins these charges but, as no cases have progressed through the full process yet, there is no evidence to justify such a big increase.

The Society will continue to scrutinise the SLCC’s annual budgets on behalf of the profession and would encourage the SLCC to review case levy charges when a sufficient number have gone through the process.
The budget for the SLCC budget will be laid before parliament in the week commencing 6 April 2009.

The SLCC proposed budget for 2009/10

How Much?
Solicitors with 3+ years experience - £275 (down £32)
Solicitors with 1 - 3 years experience - £138 (down £15)
In-house solicitors - £91(down £11)
Solicitors working outwith Scotland - £91

The £200 for mediation will be removed. However fees against a solicitor when the case is upheld will double. As a result the fees will be –

Mediation levy - £0
No complaint upheld - £0
Complaint accepted - first settlement - £500
Complaint accepted - second and further settlement - £700
Formal determination - first - £800
Formal determination - second - £1,200
Formal determination - third and further - £2,000

Who's liable?

You are liable to pay the levy if you hold a practising certificate on the 30 June 2009 (irrespective of whether you are in employment or not)

When do I have to pay?

Members will be invoiced in early May. The Society aims to have the funds collected by the 22 June in order that it can meets its obligation to pay the SLCC the full amount on 30 June 2009.

Moving firms?

If you have moved firms or are about to move firms, please make sure that the Records Department at the Society know your correct details.

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