Claims harvesting websites

Miscellaneous 04/09/2015

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. Any reference made to ‘the regulations’ is in reference to the Solicitors (Advertising) Regulations 2002 (SI no 518 of 2002).

As per the article on ‘claims-harvesting’ websites published in the January/February 2015 issue of the Gazette, solicitors are reminded of the professional implications that may arise if they are found to be working in partnership with and/or accepting referrals from such websites.

Section 5 of the Solicitors (Amendment) Act 2002 prohibits a non-solicitor from advertising legal services that could otherwise be provided by a solicitor for or in expectation of a fee, gain or reward. Further, non-solicitors are prohibited from advertising professional legal services that make any express or implied reference to claims or possible claims for damages for personal injuries and potential awards thereof.

By extension, section 7 of the Solicitors (Amendment) Act 2002 amends the definition of misconduct contained in section 3 of the 1960 act to include a solicitor having any direct or indirect association with a person who is acting in contravention of this provision.

Consequently, accepting direct or indirect referrals of personal injury claims that emanate from a ‘claims-harvesting’ website operated by a third party may also constitute misconduct on the part of a solicitor and may result in a referral to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, as per regulation 15(g)(iii).

In addition, solicitors should also be aware that the Advertising Regulations Division of the Regulation of Practice Committee has the power, where appropriate, to:

  • Make an application to the High Court for an order prohibiting a solicitor from contravening the regulations, as per section 18 of the Solicitors (Amendment) Act 2002,
  • Issue a reprimand in writing in such terms as the Society deems appropriate and reasonable, as per regulation 15(g)(ii),
  • Impose conditions on practising certificates that are in force, as per section 59 of the Solicitors (Amendment) Act 1994.

Further, it should also be noted that, pursuant to regulation 15(i), the Law Society shall be entitled to publish to the solicitors’ profession, in whatever manner the Law Society deems appropriate, the fact of the imposition of a penalty by the Law Society under regulation 15(g)(i) and (ii), subject to the outcome of any appeal and any order made by the High Court under section 11(1) of the Solicitors (Amendment) Act 1994.

Eamonn Maguire is the Law Society’s advertising regulations executive and is contactable at 01 8724800 or