Law firms have been forced to pay a large increase in their annual insurance fees this month despite a continuing effort to get Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa to reduce the charges. More than 4,000 lawyers from about 630 firms have paid the Law Society a total of about $200 million - a 25 per cent rise from the $160 million last year - for the Hong Kong Solicitors Indemnity Fund. Law firms, especially those in conveyancing, are taking on more cases after an increase in business from the Government, which has prompted fears of a rise in negligence claims. The cost of legal services, however, is not expected to rise, due to the need to be competitive. Solicitor Phyllis Kwong Ka-yin, who practises at a firm in Central, said: 'It's not fair that firms that handle mainly low-risk cases have to pay the same rate.' She said the Law Society should consider launching an open-tender exercise for the insurance programme instead of using an appointment system. A joint partnership firm in Wan Chai, which specialises in conveyancing and ended up paying less than before after cutting its staff, still felt the premium was too high. A spokesman said: 'It may be reasonable to require a firm which has committed negligence and has claimed payment before to pay more. But it's not taken into consideration. Law firms have to swallow it any way.' Some legislators are expected to propose at a Legco meeting on October 17 that the rise be repealed.