It has come to the attention of the Law Society that a company has been making unsolicited approaches to a number of solicitors’ firms offering leads regarding potential litigation. These leads are intended for sale to interested firms and relate to a wide variety of matters, including employment law, conveyancing, landlord and tenant law, and defamation.
There are specific prohibitions set down by primary legislation that preclude a solicitor from paying a third party for referrals for work of a legal nature. Section 62 of the Solicitors Act 1954 states that a solicitor shall not reward, or agree to reward, an unqualified person for legal business introduced by such person to the solicitor. Under section 62(2), an agreement in contravention of this section shall be void.
The Law Society intends to take a strict approach against solicitors found to be accepting and paying for such legal referrals, and a breach of section 62 may constitute professional misconduct on the part of the solicitor and may result in a referral to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.
In addition, solicitors should also be aware that the Advertising Regulations Division of the Regulation of Practice Committee of the Law Society has the power, where appropriate, to:
- Make an application to the High Court for an order prohibiting a solicitor from contravening the Solicitors (Advertising) Regulations 2002 under section 18 of the Solicitors (Amendment) Act 2002,
- Issue a reprimand in writing in such terms as the Society deems appropriate and reasonable, under regulation 15(g)(ii),
- Impose conditions on practising certificates that are in force, under section 59 of the Solicitors (Amendment) Act 1994.
It should also be noted that the Law Society is entitled to publish the imposition of a penalty by the Law Society under regulation 15(i) of the Solicitors (Advertising) Regulations 2002.