Introduction fee ruled illegal in asylum case

A Somali community leader who accused a firm of reneging on a deal to pay him money for introducing asylum seekers has lost a court battle against it because even if the deal had been struck it would have been illegal.

In a ruling that upholds Law Society rules preventing multi-disciplinary partnerships, Mr Justice Lightman dismissed Ali Mohamed's case against Tooting firm Alaga & Co last month.

Mohamed alleged he had entered into an agreement with the firm to refer asylum seekers and had already been paid £18,000. But he claimed he was owed money for introducing some of the 243 Somali nationals he had passed on to the firm.

Alaga & Co denied any agreement had been struck but it argued that even if it had it would have been illegal, because Law Society practice rule 7 prohibited fee sharing with non-solicitors.

Last November, a master in the high court rejected Alaga & Co's argument, claiming the rule was merely intended to regulate professional conduct.

But that decision has now been overturned on appeal by Mr Justice Lightman, who said the practice rules were legally binding.

Although he did not have to decide on the disputed facts of the case, Judge Lightman said he hoped any publicity surrounding it would prevent members of the public entering into fee-sharing agreements without realising they were illegal.

He said: “This is particularly important in such sensitive areas as immigration where the clients are likely to be peculiarly susceptible to exploitation.”

David Burchnall, of West End firm Jansons, who acted for Mohamed said it would take the case to the court of appeal, subject to the availability of legal aid.