Hopper hits out at SRA referral fee guidance

Print This Post

31 October 2013


Hopper: new guidance relapses to old SRA

The Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) recent guidance on the referral fee ban is “extremely unhelpful” and only aimed at extremes of behaviour, regulatory expert Andrew Hopper QC has argued.

Mr Hopper – who has been widely consulted on compliance with the ban – was mainly critical of the warning over agreeing with an introducer to deduct money from clients’ damages. He said solicitors should not worry about doing this so long as they have client consent.

Only if they are asked to hand over all of the client’s damages should there be a warning bell, he advised last week’s Motor Accident Solicitors Society annual conference in London.

“The idea that a client isn’t going to get all of his damages is not problematic, although there have been times during the history of the SRA when they have seemed to think that any deductions from damages is bad,” he said.

“But this plainly is wrong, particularly in the present post-LASPO climate. So this guidance is probably aimed at extremes of behaviour.”

He said that unlike the SRA’s initial guidance – which he praised for saying “what we could do rather than what we couldn’t” – the new guidance “relapses to old SRA” and talked “in general terms about concerns rather than giving specific useful examples”.

Mr Hopper said he was advising clients against offering inducements, despite SRA guidance in June indicating that solicitors can do so.

“The SRA is not saying ‘do it’ – they’ve done what the SRA does and issued unhelpful guidance about it, which is entirely consistent with outcomes-focused regulation… It’s a sort of warning thing which says ‘we’re not saying you can’t but we really don’t like it’.”

Firms were likely to be pursued under the general principles rather than a specific rule, he suggested.

Mr Hopper also highlighted a danger for solicitors in taking leads from data mining companies that come from people who have ticked a box allowing partners of a company to contact them, so-called Data Protection Act opt-ins. He said the Claims Management Regulator had determined that this was “not informed consent for the purposes of inviting a call in relation to legal business” and so constituted a cold call.

Tags: ,



2 Responses to “Hopper hits out at SRA referral fee guidance”

  1. I can only say, I agree totally and is this not a typical example of the SRA? Insufficient explanation and thus unclear leaving practitioners wondering, are we doing what is required?.

  2. Eric Golding on October 31st, 2013 at 10:02 am
  3. I agree. The term ‘sat on the fence’ springs to mind with the SRA.

  4. Richard W on November 1st, 2013 at 12:08 pm

Leave a comment

* Denotes required field

All comments will be moderated before posting. Please see our Terms and Conditions

Legal Futures Blog

Gathering speed: The lawtech start-up world you can no longer ignore

Technology

If there are any lawyers out there who are starting to relax, believing that predictions of the demise of law as we have known it in the face of technological change have been exaggerated, they should think again as 2017 begins. A growing hum of activity by the sort of bright and industrious people who have transformed the world in many other respects is being heard in legal corridors hitherto largely undisturbed by the modern world. As their ideas achieve traction, they will disrupt the profession and perhaps even displace lawyers who imagined their careers were set to last a lifetime.

January 23rd, 2017