Post six-year run-off cover is an arcane subject unlikely ever to command a Fleet Street front page. Yet the political brinkmanship over its mooted demise certainly sets my journalistic antennae twitching. Perhaps I need to get out more.
First, note how the Law Society has looked further than its own narrow bureaucratic interests by seeing past the multi-million-pound windfall that would materialise were the Society to bank the scheme’s surplus. The welfare of consumers and practitioners takes precedence. Commendable.
Second, how surreal it seems that the SRA wants to shower the Society with this vast pile of cash. Years ago regulator and representative body were so estranged that a former SRA chair publicly called for the Society to be deprived of funds. All of that has been quietly forgotten, except by those of us who were around at the time. Relations are far more cordial these days.
Third, where now for the Sole Practitioners Group? At the body’s annual conference some weeks ago, members heard how the body had taken counsel’s advice on a legal challenge to the scheme’s closure. Will that now materialise? Last week the SPG spoke darkly of taking ‘action’, without being more specific. The group is doubtless considering its options.
As matters stand, the fund’s closure appears more likely than not. So what can solicitors worried about potentially crippling claims in retirement actually do now to protect their interests? I asked sector expert Graham Balchin, a partner and professional negligence specialist at London firm Carter Lemon Camerons. He told me: ‘Any solicitor who has practised without taking steps to limit their personal liability and then retired should also take steps to transfer assets to make sure that they are beyond reach in the event that a claim does emerge from the distant past. Any transfer of the house, etc after a claim has actually emerged would likely be set aside, so if a solicitor thinks such a claim is even a remote possibility, if they do not have post six-year run-off insurance in place, they would be sensible to take this action now.’ I bet many already have.