The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal has requested an extra £300,000 in its operating budget to deal with a sharp increase in sitting days needed next year.
The tribunal estimates there will be a 35% rise in its workload based on information supplied by the SRA on cases being prosecuted.
An application was submitted last month from the tribunal to the oversight regulator, the Legal Services Board, for approval of an operating budget of £3.2m. This sum would be paid for from contributions from the solicitors profession.
The SRA has projected it will need 406 sitting days in 2019, as opposed to 300 this year, while applications to prosecute will increase from around 136 to more than 200.
Part of the increase is due to an additional 25 cases related to sexual misconduct which will require an additional 81 hearing days.
Salary costs will rise 4.7% to take account of an additional deputy clerk required due to increased workload, while general administration costs are expected to increase 24% on 2018.
According to papers presented to the LSB board, those contacting the tribunal have continued to be more litigious, for example including threats of judicial review and naming the tribunal as an interested party in judicial reviews. There has also been increased post-hearing contact from a number of respondents unhappy with the SDT’s decision and seeking recourse that is not within the SDT’s powers, rather than choosing to exercise a right of appeal.
As part of the application for an increased budget, the SDT was required to prepare an efficiency impact assessment, outlining steps it has taken in 2018 to reduce costs where possible.
Historically the SDT has spent less than was budgeted for: in 2013, for example, the actual expenditure was £2.1m whereas the budget had been for £2.78m. This is usually down to fewer sitting days actually being required than had been anticipated.
The LSB board was invited to approve the SDT’s application and will write to the tribunal president confirming the decision.