Efforts to tackle solicitors who ‘tout’ for criminal legal aid work have stepped up a gear, as the Law Society seeks to identify problem hotspots.
The Society is asking solicitors to take part in a survey to help it better understand what form the practice of touting and poaching of clients takes, and where it is most prevalent.
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.
In an opinion piece for the Gazette this year, Robin Murray, former vice-chair of the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association, said touts were a ‘danger’ to the public because ‘their lack of ethical and moral dealing with the public and the profession whilst engaging in this grubby activity almost certainly hides a multitude of sins’.
He added: ‘If touts dishonestly conduct themselves without regard to the code why would we expect them to behave in a proper manner once the client is instructed.’
Should findings from the survey demonstrate a significant problem with touting and poaching of clients, a spokesperson for the Law Society said it would work with practitioner groups to prepare a draft contract clause ‘to guard against’ such behaviour.
‘We will liaise with the Legal Aid Agency with a view to having an agreed clause added to the criminal legal aid contract,’ the spokesperson added.
The new contracts are expected to come into force next year.