Law Society disputes law complaints body’s budget. THE LAW SOCIETY OF SCOTLAND is demanding a reduction in the annual
‘Penman levy' complaints levy imposed all solicitors currently set by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission at £275 for solicitors with three or more years experience, this despite the fact the levy has already been reduced once by the ‘less-than-independent' SLCC, who are proposing a freeze on complaints levy payments for the coming year.
The complaints levy is used to fund the operation of the SLCC which was created in 2007 to ‘independently’ investigate complaints against ‘crooked lawyers’ and clean up the high levels of closed shop complaints whitewashes which, remarkably continue to occur during Law Society investigations into client complaints against their own members.
Chief Executive Lorna Jack : Law Society’s replacement for Douglas Mill. Lorna Jack, Chief Executive of the Society contended the SLCC were handling lower levels of complaints due to lawyers facing financial hardship during the downturn. Ms Jack said : “The SLCC’s budget should reflect what is happening more widely in the economy, particularly given the financial difficulties solicitors have faced during the recession, and reflect the level of complaints the SLCC is currently handling, and expected to handle in the forthcoming year. At a time when solicitors are having to make tough decisions about their businesses and the Society has reduced the cost of the practicing certificate by £100, it is vital that the SLCC offers value for money.”
Ms Jack went onto attack the Legal Complaints Commission further, claiming it had plenty reserves to reduce levies on impoverished lawyers (who will pass on the levy charge to clients anyway, and then probably double or treble it according to the usual accepted practices of fleecing clients).
Ms Jack continued : “The SLCC’s proposed budget would indicate that they have more than sufficient funding to reduce the financial burden on solicitors and still run the operation effectively. It is particularly frustrating that, when the SLCC was planning its 2009/10 budget, the Society maintained that the levy on solicitors was too high and would lead to excessive reserves. Having now seen the proposed budget, (including reserves to cover 6 months operational costs) it seems we were justified in our view and we will continue to press for a reduced levy on our members this year.”
£275 a year for crooked lawyers to stay out of jail ? Come on Lorna, where else does someone get such a cosy deal ? It’s hardly worth complaining about when the Law Society does so much to protect the profession against consumer complaints …
SLCC Chair Jane Irvine. Commenting on the Law Society’s call to reduce the levy, rather than simply freeze it, Jane Irvine, Chair of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission said : “The budget consultation process is currently ongoing and it would therefore be inappropriate to respond to comments made in a press release from one of the professional bodies. We expect to receive formal responses from all the professional bodies following discussions with their representatives. The formal responses will be published on the SLCC website.”
Well, now that is a change, we wont need to do Freedom of Information requests to see what the Law Society of Scotland said in their responses … so lets hope for a bout of arm twisting and bullying well worthy of Scotland’s governing body of solicitors which as never once placed consumer protection above the interests of its solicitor membership.
SLCC Budget freeze takes account of downturn for lawyers, not downturn for Scotland. While the Law Society sticks to its chosen path of confrontation on this year’s complaints levy, Jane Irvine explained the Commission’s way of thinking for their 2010/11 budget. Ms Irvine said : "The Board is keen that levies collected from the legal profession do not change dramatically from year to year. Taking this and the economic downturn into account, we have decided to use SLCC reserves to stabilise the levy fee at a time when there is a reduction in the number of practising legal professionals, which of course, means fewer levies to be collected by the professional bodies."
She added: "The general levy for the next financial year will remain the same with additional categories being added to bring In-house Conveyancing and Executry Practitioners inline with In-house Solicitors and to also include members of the Association of Commercial Attorneys."
SLCC Board members “We’re in the money, we’re in the money”. In January of each year, the SLCC consults with the professional bodies and their members on our budget for the next financial year. This is in accordance with the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007. The levy is gathered by the professional bodies (but not always paid on time) ; the Law Society of Scotland, Faculty of Advocates and the Association of Commercial Attorneys (the levy for Conveyancing & Executry Practitioners is collected by the Law Society of Scotland).
Your can read the letters to the professional bodies and the proposed budget for 2010-2011 here (PDF 4.39MB).
Jane Irvine continued: "Similarly, whilst our previous budget doubled the levy we apply when complaints are upheld, this will not increase in our next financial year. What we have done, however, is to give ourselves more discretion when and how we charge the complaints levy with the maximum set at the relevant levy banding.”
"The SLCC proposed budget for 2010 to 2011 is £2,839,336 and although our budget calculations need to factor in running costs of up to six months, our under-spend has enabled the overall budget to be reduced by over £145,000."
To understand why the
‘Penman Levy’ complaints levy exists, read this : How Law Society's 'cancelled' prosecution of Borders solicitor Andrew Penman ignited moves to reform regulation of Scotland’s crooked lawyers
To find out where some of this money goes, a couple of my previous articles make illuminating reading : Calls to scrap 'complaints laundering' Scottish Legal Complaints Commission as expensive anti-consumer quango revealed as talking shop for lawyers & Expenses secrecy scandal as Scottish Legal Complaints Commission seeks ban on information requests to protect lawyers 'mental health & safety'
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill wrote off £2 million of taxpayers money as start up costs of new crooked lawyers regulator. So, no increase in the complaints levy for lawyers, but no thought either of paying back the two million pounds plus of Scottish taxpayers money pumped into the SLCC by the Scottish Government which Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill wrote off as ‘start up costs’, which you can read more about here : MacAskill silent on taxpayers £2million 'write off' to lawyers quango as Complaints boss reveals Law Society defaulted on levies.
What with the recession and public services needing the money more than crooked lawyers, surely the SLCC should be handing back those millions which would be better spent on hospitals & health rather than letting the legal profession get away with receiving yet another gigantic bung from the taxpayer.
Proposed levy charges for 2010/2011 are:
Solicitors with 3 plus years experience £275
Conveyancing or Executry Practitioners
with 3 plus years experience £275
Solicitors within first 3 years of practice £138
Conveyancing or Executry Practitioners
within 3 plus years of practice £138
In-house solicitors £91
In-house Conveyancing or Executry
Commercial Attorneys £91
Complaints levies are charges made against legal practitioners when a complaint is upheld. The proposed complaints levies for 2010/2011 are:
Mediation levy £0
No complaint upheld £0
Complaint accepted - First Settlement up to £500
Complaint accepted - Second and
Further Settlements up to £700
Formal Determination - First up to £800
Formal Determination - Second up to £1,200
Formal Determination - Third
and Further Determinations up to £2,000
My previous reports on the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission can be read here Scottish Legal Complaints Commission : The story so far, and it should be noted the SLCC’s first annual report is yet to be published, dates floating around at the moment suggest March 2010, and we can also expect the final report of the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman, a position which the SLCC’s current Chair, Jane Irvine held prior to the Commission taking over the SLSO’s functions.
However, what we wont be seeing is a parade of clients or consumers who the SLCC have protected by addressing & resolving complaints & complicated cases of fraud involving solicitors ripping off the general public, because apparently, there are no major honours of resolving significant client complaints to speak of. Wonder why ? just read my earlier reports on the SLCC to find out.