Solicitor rebuked over referrals from genealogists

Probate: Significant proportion of firm’s work came from genealogist company

A solicitor has been rebuked for taking referrals from a genealogy business that acquired clients in a way that a law firm would be prohibited from doing.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) action against Helen Heselwood is one that has been far more commonly seen against personal injury solicitors.

Ms Heselwood was a director and COLP at Heselwood & Grant in Lytham St Annes, which closed last October, and has accepted the sanction in a regulatory settlement agreement.

The firm was referred a significant proportion of its probate work by a genealogist business, ‘Company A’, which would use information supplied by the government on unclaimed estates to make unsolicited approaches to members of the public who it believed were potential beneficiaries.

The agreement said Heselwood & Grant was aware of Company A’s use of “unsolicited targeted approaches to acquire and introduce members of the public to the firm”, which would then act for the beneficiaries to administer the estate.

Company A’s acquisition and introductions were conducted in a manner that, if it were regulated by the SRA, would be in breach of regulatory requirements. This is a breach of paragraph 5.1(e) of the SRA Code of Conduct for Solicitors.

Solicitors are not allowed to make unsolicited approaches to consumers.

Ms Heselwood accepted she was in breach. In mitigation, she pointed out that she had co-operated with the SRA’s investigation, “has shown insight and understanding of her regulatory obligations”, and had a clean regulatory history up until now.

The SRA said a rebuke was the appropriate outcome because “some sanction is required to uphold public confidence in the delivery of legal services”, but the risk of repetition was low.

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