Prohibition on solicitors paying for case referrals from ‘claims harvesting’ websites
Registrar of Solicitors
This notice is intended as general guidance in relation to the subject matter and does not constitute a definitive statement of law. Reference to a solicitor includes a reference to a firm of solicitors in this context.
The Law Society is aware that the operators of UK based ‘claims harvesting’ websites have been making unsolicited approaches to a number of solicitors’ firms in Ireland, offering leads regarding potential litigation. The introductory email sent by the company proposes to refer clients, for a fee, to solicitors in pursuit of compensation for motor vehicle accidents.
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 2019 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 14(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 14(i) of the Solicitors Advertising Regulations 2019.
Eamonn Maguire is the Law Society’s advertising regulations executive and is contactable at 01 872 4800 or email@example.com.
Registrar of Solicitors and Director of Regulation