Law Society accuses SLCC of being ‘tone deaf’ over proposed solicitor levy increases

Law Society accuses SLCC of being 'tone deaf' over proposed solicitor levy increases

The Law Society of Scotland has accused the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission of being ‘tone-deaf’ to the current crisis facing the legal profession after the SLCC published its financial plans for the coming year.

The SLCC has laid its final budget for 2020/21 before the Scottish Parliament. It represents 100 per cent of what was proposed in January before the spread of coronavirus and increases the levy which must be paid by every practising solicitor by 3.5 per cent.

The budget includes an increase of £4 for the year for in-house lawyers and commercial attorneys, £6 for advocates, £14 for employed solicitors and £17 for principals and partners in private practice.

President of the Law Society, John Mulholland, said: “The First Minister was clear last month. If your life still feels entirely normal, you should ask yourself if you are doing the right things. The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission is simply not doing the right things.

“Like all sectors, Scottish solicitors face a historic economic crisis. It requires everyone, including the SLCC, to do everything possible to ensure there is a still a functioning legal profession in the long term.

“We pressed the SLCC, repeatedly and robustly, to change its approach. It is astonishing that the SLCC has instead published a business as usual budget which is identical to that proposed in January. It is tone-deaf to the scale and seriousness of the emergency before us, increasing fees on solicitors when they are least able to pay. It is the latest in a series of failures by the SLCC when it comes to listening and responding to those who fund it.

“The Law Society has already made a number of changes to reduce our costs and relieve the burden on the profession. We plan to make an announcement soon on a package of further financial measures. It is wholly unacceptable that the SLCC is refusing to take a similar path.”

SLCC chief executive Neil Stevenson said: “Over the past few years we have made significant improvements in our efficiency, but each year these have been outstripped by the increased number and complexity of incoming complaints, as well as other costs. Our current prediction is that this trend will continue.

“Of course, this is a very uncertain time for all of us, and we are acutely aware of the impact of coronavirus on the sector. We will continue to review the situation and are exploring options to reduce cost, to agree flexibility in the collection of the levy, and are proposing a more flexible operating plan for the coming year, to deal with the uncertainty.

“However, we also have a defined statutory process to run, and complaints are continuing to come in at similar volumes. Our duty to the sector and public is to ensure complaints continue to be processed as required by statute, and business continuity arrangements and online processes mean we are currently able to deliver this almost as normal, while complying with government advice.”

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