Solicitor touts face fresh curbs

Topics: Law firm & practice management,Legal aid and access to justice,Regulation and compliance

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  • Robin Murray

New government contracts for criminal legal aid could contain stronger sanctions for solicitors who ‘tout’ for work, the Gazette has learned.

Solicitors Regulation Authority rules state that solicitors are not allowed to make unsolicited approaches in person or by phone to members of the public to publicise the firm, in-house practice or another business.

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Former Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association vice-chair Robin Murray (pictured) said touts were a danger to the public ‘because their lack of ethical and moral dealing with the public and the profession while engaging in this grubby activity almost certainly hides a multitude of sins’.

London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association president Greg Foxsmith said members had reported solicitors standing by court lists as defendants check their names and then approaching them. Some have followed potential clients into the court lift to sign them up.

Law Society president Jonathan Smithers said the SRA should take ‘robust’ action where there is evidence of touting.

He said: ‘We are working with the Legal Aid Agency to ensure that the next criminal legal aid contract includes stronger anti-touting measures that will enable them to impose appropriate sanctions on anyone who breaches the rules.’

A spokesperson for the agency said it was ‘disappointing’ that some solicitors ‘appear to be engaging in this type of behaviour’.

‘Legal aid contract holders who act in this way risk breaching their professional obligations, jeopardising their legal aid contract.

‘We are clear that any indication of wrongdoing could be referred to the SRA for investigation. We will work with representative bodies to assess what additional measures could be taken to address these behaviours.’

The SRA’s executive director of operations and quality, Robert Loughlin, said the nature of the activity meant ‘it can be very difficult to prove to the criminal standard used by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal. That remains a frustration for us as much as it does for those firms that believe clients have been diverted from them’.

Readers' comments (17)

  • Why had it taken so long. I know of one firm near us that have been reported to the SRA and LAA multiple times by numerous other firms over many years. Paying clients to find them other clients, having one solicitor standing at the entrance to the court ringing another in the building to advise them of us represented persons. Sending phone cards and money into prisons, pretending to be the duty solicitor, going into the cells pretending to represent people who had never asked for them, grabbing court papers when not representing someone and then pretending to the court that they now represent the person. Everyone from our city reading this knows exactly who I am talking about. Everyone in our city has lost work to this firm. No one has any hope that this will be stopped. It is still going on.

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  • An N-u-T I think David.

    If what is observed is wrong, be mindful of O(10.4) of the Code of Conduct, the obligation to "report to the SRA promptly serious misconduct by any person or firm regulated by the SRA ..."

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  • Unfortunately merely writing something into an LAA contract won't make a jot of difference. The SRA haven't got the resources to police the SRA Code and given that it takes my LAA Contract Manager some three months to respond to even basic queries I dread to think what will happen when I report something like this which is, er, a bit 'difficult'

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  • If there was a counter at the Court, where the public could walk up and ask for an 'on the spot' solicitor, ( particularly if the rate was quite low), and the rest of the premises could be a non-tout area, and placing the duty solicitors that are not paid at a different counter, life could be interesting.

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  • Solicitors banned from soliciting by Solicitors Regulation Authority.

    Name change time perhaps?

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  • Beware: The Bridgewater Case!

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  • We have very bad experiebce of criminal law duty solicitors "rogues" who was drawing fabulous salaries from us and selling crime legally aided cases to others leading to our collapse. Crime duty solicitors conduct must be regulated.

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  • Oh for goodness sake. The SRA tell solicitors to act like businesses and then complain when they do.......

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  • I thought the expression "crime doesn't pay" referred to the Legal Aid rates paid to solicitors..

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  • Surely 'kerb' is the correct spelling in the UK when soliciting?

    LB

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