Tight control of costs and a sharp fall in interventions into struggling firms will help keep PC fees unchanged next year
Solicitors would pay the same practising certificate fee in 2019-20 as they did for the previous two years under proposals presented by the Law Society Group today.
Society president Christina Blacklaws said: 'The Law Society is becoming ever more efficient. The PC fee has decreased by almost one fifth in real terms since April 2015, while we provide an exceptional service for our members.
'By making efficiency savings across the Society, along with an increase in the number of solicitors on the roll, we are able to freeze fees while delivering greater value to members.'
Unprecedentedly low levels of interventions into struggling solicitor firms have also helped to ensure fee levels remain stable, it emerged today. In 2017/18, there were just 33 interventions into law firms, a drop of 34% year-on-year and the lowest yearly figure since the SRA come into existence.
The trend is set to continue this year, with just 19 interventions in 2018/19 so far (the SRA’s year runs from November to October) and the figure expected to finish close to last year’s all-time low.
The SRA intervenes to close down a solicitor’s firm when clients’ interests need to be protected. Costs of each can run into millions, with the regulator taking possession of all documents and papers that relate to clients.
But increasingly, insolvency experts handling firms on the brink appear to prefer finding buyers quickly, rather than risk the regulator stepping in. The potential cost to the profession of allowing this to happen has been frequently cited in administrators’ reports, most recently when London firm Seth Lovis & Co was sold off to avoid the anticipated £1m costs of intervention.
Anna Bradley, Solicitors Regulation Authority chair, said: 'The profession needs to be confident that the practising certificate fees offer value for money, while making sure we properly protect the public and support the rule of law. I am pleased that the practising certificate fee is set to remain level for the third year in a row, while we continue to bolster investment in key areas such as anti-money laundering.'
The proposed £278 fee includes levies for the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, the Legal Services Board, the Financial Conduct Authority (to focus on money laundering activity), and the Legal Ombudsman.
The fee also covers the costs of the regulation work undertaken by the SRA but does not cover contributions to the Compensation Fund. The individual contribution to the compensation fund for 2019/20 will be £60 (reduced from £90), while the firm contribution will be £1,150 (down £530 from £1,680).
The proposed fee is now open for consultation and the results of the consultation will be considered at the Law Society’s annual general meeting on 4 July. If approved, the fee goes to the oversight regulator, the Legal Services Board, for final approval.