Law Society to ballot on insurance body


MEMBERS OF the Law Society voted at a special general meeting last night to hold a postal ballot on financially supporting the insurance body set up by the society to provide professional indemnity insurance.

The Solicitors Mutual Defence Fund (SMDF), which provides insurance to less than 30 per cent of solicitors, is being wound down, but has liabilities of €160 million, 90 per cent of which is covered by reinsurance. The council of the Law Society proposed the balance be made up from a levy of all practising solicitors, amounting to €200 a year for 10 years.

This would be paid both by those insured with the SMDF and those by commercial insurance companies. Professional indemnity insurance for solicitors can run to hundreds of thousands of euro.

The meeting in the Citywest Conference Centre was the largest in the memory of those attending, with 600-1,000 present. Over 80 people spoke. Many more would have attended had there not been a resolution for a postal ballot.

A postal ballot on a resolution can be requested by 100 solicitors. One Law Society member, Vincent Crowley, collected more than 300 signatures in just over a day last week. The president of the society, John Costello, then e-mailed all members informing them there would be such a ballot. Mr Crowley was nominated by the meeting to outline the case against the resolution levying members to support the SMDF, and Stuart Gilhooley, a member of the council, was nominated to put the case in favour. The 500-word position papers will be submitted within two weeks and circulated to all members by the end of the month. A result is expected by mid-June.

If the resolution is not carried, the SMDF will not be able to arrange an orderly wind-down by working through the outstanding claims over a number of years while not taking on any new risk, and a liquidator will be appointed.