The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal will increase its budget next year to £2.9m to cope with a massive rise in the number of cases coming before it.
According to papers from the latest meeting of the Legal Services Board, the SDT applied last month to increase its 2016 budget by £156,533 (5.6%). This is almost £1m more than the SDT spent in 2014. The SDT is funded by the profession through the Law Society.
This year's budget includes a 14.8% rise in salary and related costs, which will come to almost £1.1m in 2016. However the SDT said the key reason for the increased budget is caseload: in the first half of 2015 the SDT reported a 69% increase in cases certified compared with the same period of 2014.
Around 3% of the practising certificate fee for each solicitor funds the SDT, meaning each solicitor pays on average £30 a year to its costs.
By the end of August this year, 103 cases had been certified compared with 118 for the whole of 2014. The total estimate for this year is 180 cases.
As well as higher numbers, the SDT reported a greater complexity of some cases, requiring more administrative resources.
Increasingly, the tribunal said, there are challenges to the Solicitors Regulation Authority case which need to be settled before the substantive case is heard.
It has been agreed that a senior deputy clerk will be recruited to manage the more complex cases and two deputy clerk vacancies will be filled.
‘This increased resource should allow the SDT to manage the expected caseload and maintain performance against the agreed performance indicators,’ the paper added.
The LSB noted that the overall 5.6% increase ‘appeared quite high’ but the raised caseload could justify it. The proposed budget was approved at last month’s meeting.