The Solicitors Regulation Authority has called on the defence firms to report instances touting. Solicitors and their agents are banned from proactively approaching potential clients in person and the watchdog has highlighted signing up clients at prisons; handing out cards outside of police stations; having people ‘camped’ by the magistrate’ court doors picking up potential clients; and paying ‘finders’ to go to local estates.
According to the SRA there are ‘increasing reports’ of firms using such techniques to approach potential clients even if that client has already been assigned representation. Before the summer Chancery Lane asked firms to report examples of ‘touting and poaching’ – as reported in LegalVoice here. In March, Robin Murray, former vice-chair of the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association, argued touts were a ‘danger’ and taking part in a ‘grubby activity [that] almost certainly hides a multitude of sins’.‘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,’ he said.
The Society said that if findings demonstrated a significant problem of clients that it would work with practitioner groups to prepare ‘a draft contract clause “to guard against” such behaviour’.
‘While the majority of solicitors and firms continue to act professionally, we want to increase our focus in this area,’ said Crispin Passmore, the SRA’s executive director for policy. ‘Firms working in this way not only undermine the rule of law, they also impede the public’s access to high-quality legal advice. This is especially concerning because those involved in criminal cases could be very vulnerable.’
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