News release

SRA urges solicitors to report touting

We have committed to working with the profession to help target the increasing problem of touting.

Solicitors and their agents are banned by the Code of Conduct from proactively approaching potential clients in person in a bid to increase business. Marketing strategies should be non-intrusive, a rule that also bans cold calling.

There are increasing reports however of law firms using people to approach potential clients, even if that client has already been assigned representation. We are increasing our efforts to investigate the problem and met recently with the Law Society on the issue. The Law Society has also expressed concerns about the practice.

Crispin Passmore, SRA Executive Director, Policy, said: "I told the Law Society that we are already concerned about reports of touting in criminal practice. While the majority of solicitors and firms continue to act professionally, we want to increase our focus in this area.

"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."

According to the reports, touts will:

  • Appear at prisons to try and sign up clients - firms allegedly have advocates/runners camped by the magistrate’ court doors picking up potential clients
  • Wait outside the police station and introduce themselves to other firms’ own clients, asking them to sign up legal aid with them, offering money to change solicitors, and paying people to refer clients to them
  • Loiter near courtrooms that deal with first appearances
  • Hand out cards outside police stations
  • Pay ‘finders’ to go to local estates and recommend a specific firm

Crispin Passmore said: "We can all address this problem by working together. We would encourage solicitors and firms to report any concerns about touting quickly and clearly. Often a small piece of information can complete a wider picture for us and we can then better target our efforts to tackle this problem." Solicitors with concerns about touting should email report@sra.org.uk, putting touting as the subject line.

Crispin Passmore's letter to the Law Society can be found here:

Go to the letter

The SRA Code of Conduct outlines how law firms can market services in Chapter 8. Rules on how agents working for law firms should act are outlined in Chapter 9, including any marketing work.