THE IRISH Law Society has been told that unless it takes speedy action to control solicitors who tout for business, parliament will be forced to do the job through statutory regulations.
The warning has been given by an Irish government backbencher, deputy Eric Byrne, of Dublin, who claimed a small number of solicitors were "latching on to a good thing with no win, no fee advertising. When they win, there is a very substantial fee."
He told parliament in Dublin that a minority of solicitors were encouraging claims with no win, no fee adverts in the Yellow Pages, local newspapers and door-to-door leaflets.
The problem was compounded by the absence of strict guidelines on solicitors' advertising, he said.
"Many solicitors share the concern expressed by myself and others at the proliferation of ambulance-chasing advertising, which is undermining the standing of their profession.
"I believe that unless the Law Society moves swiftly to regulate its members in this regard, statutory regulations will have to be introduced."
Guidelines to restrict advertising are currently being prepared by the society amid reports of disagreement over how far the curbs should go. A proposed set of regulations, which would have prevented solicitors from seeking out personal injury victims and encouraging them to sue, is said to have been rejected.
Law Society director general Ken Murphy denied there was any major division of opinion but said advertising was a complex issue for the profession. He said he expected regulations would be ready within months while insisting that only a tiny percentage of Irish solicitors engaged in ambulance-chasing.