The general levy due by solicitors to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission will be covered by the Law Society of Scotland in the short term, as a way to help its members' cash flow during the coronavirus crisis.
The Society has negotiated an agreement with the SLCC under which the levy, which by law is due to be paid before 1 July each year, may be paid in part at the outset, with the SLCC formally deferring enforcement of half the levy until 1 December 2020.
In a letter to practising solicitors, the Society's President John Mulholland said the Society would now step in to temporarily cover the immediate cost required by the SLCC. "It means solicitors can pay their SLCC levy at a much later point in the year."
Further details will be issued in the next two weeks, but solicitors will not be required to pay until the end of October – though the Society will accept payment from anyone who prefers to pay now.
The SLCC provoked a strong reaction from the profession when, in its final budget for the year from 1 July, it declined to scale back on its proposed 3.5% levy increase to take account of the pressures and changed circumstances facing solicitors due to COVID-19, though it indicated that it would accept payment in two instalments. The levy ranges from £120 to £492 for different types of practitioner.
"It is astonishing that the SLCC, at a time of financial crisis, is increasing its fees and charging more when solicitors can least afford it", Mr Mulholland wrote. "It is why the Law Society was determined to do what it could to lessen the SLCC’s financial impact."
He concluded: "I wish we could have gone further. I wish the SLCC had listened and actually reduced its levy. However, I hope this action by the Law Society offers some additional help to those who need it and avoids further pressure on cashflow at this extremely difficult time."