The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) has announced budget proposals for 2009/2010 which should benefit both consumers and legal practitioners.
Set up under the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007, the SLCC investigates complaints made by members of the public about services provided by legal practitioners in Scotland. The Commission opened for business on 1 October 2008 and although operating wholly independently of the legal profession, it is funded by legal practitioners in Scotland through the payment of an annual levy and charges imposed when a complaint is upheld.
Commenting on the proposed budget, SLCC Chair Jane Irvine said: "As an independent, impartial and accessible organisation, the budget has been developed after listening to the views of both consumer organisations and legal practitioners.
"The economic downturn has already impacted upon the legal profession and a *recent survey of 196 firms indicated that 304 people, mostly support staff, had already been made redundant.
"Legal practitioners already working to high standards will benefit from the levy being reduced from **£409 to £275 and the £200 charge for mediation will be removed.
"However, consumer organisations want to see higher standards of service and early resolution of complaints. With this in mind, the SLCC will double charges where a complaint is upheld. The minimum charge will rise from ***£250 to £500. The financial implications of an increased complaints levy should encourage practitioners to resolve complaints at an early stage."
The original budget for the Commission's first year of operation was £3,493,823. Operating costs for the next twelve months are significantly reduced with a proposed budget of £2,985,102.
*Source: Economic Impact Survey, December 2008 published by the Law Society of Scotland.
**A 12-month annual levy charge for 2008/09 should have been £409 but the actual charge for the 9-months of operation was £307.
Proposed levy charges for 2009/10 are:
- Solicitors with 3 plus years experience: £275
- Advocates: £223
- Solicitors within first 3 years of practice: £138
- In-house solicitors: £91
***Complaints levies are charges made against legal practitioners when a complaint is upheld.
The proposed complaints levies for 2009/10 are:
- Mediation levy: £0
- No complaint upheld: £0
- Complaint accepted - First Settlement: £500
- Complaint accepted - Second and Further Settlements: £700
- Formal Determination - First: £800
- Formal Determination - Second: £1,200
- Formal Determination - Third and Further Determinations: £2,000