Legal Business Blogs

Law Society proposes significant cuts to practising certificate fee and compensation fund

The Law Society Group has put plans in place to slash lawyers’ practising certificate fees by almost 17% from the 12 months beginning 1 November 2014.

The change, subject to Law Society Council approval and a consultation among members that ends on 7 July, will see practising certificate fees for the near 127,000 practising lawyers fall from £384 for 2014 to £320 for 2015.

The Law Society Group includes the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and Corporate Solutions, the group’s shared services arm.

The consultation, which kicked-off this week, comes as the group consults on its proposed budget for the financial year from 1 November 2014 to 31 October 2015.

The total net funding requirement for 2014-15 is £111.9m but the group is proposing that part of that funding be met by reserves, meaning the total amount to be collected from the practising certificate fee is £104.9m, a reduction of £11.8m (10%) on 2013-14.

Last year, 46% of the pot produced by practising certificate fees went to the SRA, with 27% going to the Law Society.

It is planned that the SRA’s slice of the funds will fall to 33% in 2014/15 and the Law Society down to 21% as Corporate Solutions, the administrative function that handles HR, property, finance and IT, becomes the biggest single expenditure.

Proposals have also been put forward to cut contributions to the annual compensation fund – the pot to pay for uninsured client losses faced where solicitors fail to account for funds or are dishonest – which if approved will fall from the £88 charged in 2013/14 to £32 next year.

The SRA will collect approximately £8.4m for the compensation fund in 2014/15.

This latest development comes following steps by the professions regulatory and representative bodies to cut red tape and costs for the profession, including dropping the continuing professional development (CPD) points regime that currently brings the body over £500,000 a year in accreditation fees.

Further measures include dispensing with the requirement for law students to enrol with the SRA prior to commencing the Legal Practice Course, meaning the £80 fee currently charged has been cut.

Chris Andrews, risk management director at Simmons & Simmons, told Legal Business: ‘They are going in the right direction by cutting bureaucracy that doesn’t provide value. The cut will help every firm, even the larger firms as they have thousands of lawyers [that they will usually pay the practising fee for]. Anything that focuses the SRA’s attention on things of real value is a positive step.’