Law Society Survey Results Revealed In Application To Legal Services Board
In an application to the Legal Services Board (LSB) that has the Law Society asking for the Practising Certificate (PC) fee to remain the same, the results from a recent survey, regarding the fee, have been revealed.
The survey, undertaken between the 8 June and 10 July, asked solicitors whether they felt the current fees were good value for money and whether it is reasonable for the fee to be split across various professional bodies and authorities.
Out of the 224 responses to the “Practising Certificate (PC) Fee Consultation” found that 67% of respondents found the fee does not represent value for money, compared to 24% that felt it was. The application stated that some;
“appreciated the stability of the fees over the last 3 years and recognised that the Law Society has done a great deal of work to promote the interests of solicitors at a modest cost.”
However, for the majority, members felt the fee was “very expensive”, with those who are responsible for paying their own fees expressing the “need for the fee to be more flexible to recognise changing circumstances”. This is a particular worry for those who have had to close due to the recent lockdown and those working part time, self-employed or working as locums.
The question also raised requests for “more openness and transparency about what each organisation does”, as well as concerns that the profession is “overregulated” and that “more free training should be provided”. Some respondents felt that the Law Society does not do enough to support smaller firms and sole practitioners, as well as questioning the effectiveness of the regulation by the SRA.
“some respondents feel that both the Law Society and SRA are unnecessarily bureaucratic and overstaffed; some feel that the Law Society does not do enough to support the profession and that the SRA over-regulates in a way which is excessively burdensome.”
In asking whether the split in spending between organisations was reasonable, again, most felt that it was not. 54% of respondents did not feel it was reasonable to split the spending across the Law Society Group between the Law Society professional body, the Solicitors Regulation Authority, Legal Ombudsman, Legal Services Board, Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal and Financial Conduct Authority.
When asked what other comments respondents had for the Law Society Group, these included those regarding the general cost and affordability of the PC fee:
“many respondents feel that the PC fee should be reduced on recognition of the impact that lockdown and COVID has had on their businesses, others suggested that perhaps the PC fee could be extended to over a longer period of time than the usual 12 months. Some respondents feel the PC fee should be split into a mandatory part to cover basic regulation and a voluntary part to cover all other activities. Several respondents noted that both the SRA and Law Society have talked about cost savings and efficiencies but do not feel these are being passed on to members via reduction in the PC fees.”
Those regarding the split between the Law Society, the SRA and others:
“some respondent asked for more clarity and transparency about how all organisations spend their respective parts of the PC fee as they felt this is not clear.
“Several respondents also queried why the FCA, SDT, LSB and Legal Ombudsman receive funding from the PC fee, their portion is excessive and there is no clarity what these organisations deliver in terms of outcomes.
“Some respondents felt that the SRA represents the consumer not the professions so should not receive more than the Law Society.
In regard to affordability for specific circumstances some respondents asked whether an option of tiered fees were an option particularly with reference to those who work part time, as well as an option whereby refund could be offered for those who are unable to work or secure employment due to the pandemic.
Several respondents suggested that solicitors who are unemployed should be offered an exemption.
Despite the concerns raised by respondents, with the majority feeling that the PC fee did not represent value for money, the Law Society has not reduced the fee, choosing for it to remain at £278, the amount it has remained for the past 4 years.
The income from the 2020/2021 PC fees will be shared between the SRA (£54.8m), The Law Society (£28.5m), with the remaining £17.9m being shared between the Legal Services Board, Legal Ombudsman, Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal and the Office for Professional Body Anti-Money Laundering Supervision.
Let us know what you think about the PC remaining the same. Do you feel it gives value for money?