The vast majority of solicitors who responded to a Law Society survey on the practising certificate (PC) fee said they thought it did not represent value for money.
A further two-thirds thought the way the money was split between the society, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and other bodies was “not reasonable”, with many arguing that the society should get more and the SRA less.
The society carried out the online poll before it approved a fee for 2015/16 of £320 for each solicitor, the same as last year. The fee was approved by the Legal Services Board (LSB) earlier this month, albeit that the oversight regulator had concern about the fee staying the same while SRA spending fell.
A total of 84% of the 187 solicitors who took part said they thought the fee did not “represent value for money in terms of the benefits received”.
More than 100 of these solicitors gave reasons, the largest number (10) arguing that the fee was “too expensive and excessive compared to other jurisdictions”.
Suggestions for changes included reductions for those working exclusively in criminal law, and reductions for part-time work, maternity leave, unemployment or not working for the whole of the year.
Almost half of the group also queried what benefits were provided by the society or were unaware of some of them
Specific comments made by solicitors included that the society was “not protecting the brand of ‘solicitor’ and ultimately that is key”, as well as criticisms of salaries paid to Law Society staff, and the cost of specific projects, such as Veyo or Black Solicitors Week.
More than two-thirds of solicitors who responded to the poll said they did not think the split of spending between the Law Society, the SRA, the Legal Ombudsman, the LSB and the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal was reasonable.
Among this group, 24 solicitors thought the society should get more and the SRA less.
Their arguments included that “too much was spent by the SRA on regulation” and an increased share for the society would have a “direct effect upon the services provided to members”.
A slightly larger group of 27 solicitors made general comments about regulatory costs being too high and more needing to be spent on representation. One of them described the profession as “grossly over-regulated” in comparison to others.
Seven solicitors thought the Law Society should get a smaller share of the fee and should cut the size of its ruling council to reduce spending.
Asked whether the approach taken by the society to the use of its PC fees was reasonable, more than two-thirds gave a negative response.
The largest group of those who left comments argued that more money should be spent on representation and campaigns to bolster the position of the solicitors.
Further comments included that both the society and the SRA were not “member-friendly” and the society was “too focused on supporting the top 100”.