Draft response to The Law Society consultation exercise on 2020-2021 PC fee

Paul Dunlop attended the virtual SAALS meeting on 24 June 2020. He reported that all societies across the south are experiencing similar issues, with firm’s looking for help and guidance in this difficult time. A few societies have started running virtual training courses, with most seeking some form of attendance fee. We have lined up some courses and will circulate details shortly. Where it does not cost the society anything to run the course, we will be offering these to members for free. If you wish to request a specific area for a course or host one then please contact us at enquiries@dorsetlawsociety.co.uk

Paul Dunlop lead the discussion on the Law Society consultation about the proposed reduction of Practicing Certificates fees. Our committee has discussed this at length. Please see the following:

We encourage members and firms to write separately on this issue. If you are in agreement with the societies draft letter then you can use this as the basis of your letter (see below regarding our response), however, where possible amend it slightly so it is definitely taken as a separate and independent view. We request that all responses to the proposed letter are emailed to enquiries@dorsetlawsociety.co.uk by 3 July 2020.

If you are having financial, mental health, procedural and/or any other issues then please do contact SBA the Solicitor’s Charity, LawCare UK, or the society.

Dorset Law Society’s response

Dear Chief Executive

The Dorset Law Society is grateful for the opportunity to respond to your prescribed consultation exercise in relation to the Law Society element of the 2020-2021 PC fee.

Having considered the Society’s proposal in detail at our last committee meeting and after consultation with our membership, we would wish to feed-in the following recommendations;

  • The Dorset Law Society considers a proposed 10% reduction in the Law Society element of the PC fee which would only amount to a nominal sum to be inadequate and notes that in the past the fee has risen and fallen by similar sums.  From a reputational point of view we consider such a reduction might be thought of by some within our membership to be derisory at a time of an unprecedented public health and economic emergency.  It might be said that it would be better to make no reduction rather than a token one.
  • We are concerned that the reduction proposed is a flat rate one and as a local Society would prefer any reduction to be targeted in favour of firms with a Legal Aid Authority contract or with fewer than say five partners. This we assume would be a relatively straightforward and cost effective arrangement to administer with the merit of simplicity.
  • As a Society our preference would be for the PC fee for 2020-2021 to be waived entirely for small firms or those in receipt of a LAA contract.  If this would not be possible we would press for the greatest possible discount available.
  • We are aware that the Law Society has sizeable reserves contributed by the membership over many decades for an unforeseen national emergency which we consider the Covid-19 pandemic to be.  In view of the implications for access to justice were legal aid practices to fail we would recommend that consideration be given to using Law Society reserves to fund where necessary targeted and substantial reductions in the Law Society element of the PC fee.
  • As a Society we would also recommend that consideration be given to use the Law Society reserves to make available soft or interest free loans to practices which would otherwise be at risk of running out of cash and failing in addition to government scheme support.   This could enable at risk firms to trade their way out of the crisis and repay the loans to rebuild the reserves.

If you would wish for any further detail on our response please do not hesitate to return to us.

 

Yours sincerely.

 

Paul Dunlop

President

Dorset Law Society