Support for renewed ban on referral fees gathers momentum

Solicitors at the Law Society AGM this afternoon voted against the Council in favour of a motion proposing a renewed ban on referral fees.

The resolution, brought by 45 lawyers from across England and Wales, stated: “The meeting deplores the decision of the Law Society Council to sanction the payment of referral fees and calls upon the Council to reinstate the ban.”

An earlier version of the motion also called for a postal ballot to gauge the profession’s opinion, but this was amended.

The motion was carried by 60 votes to 44 with just three abstentions. Voting followed a heated debate in which many of those present expressed their “repugnance” towards referral fees.

The council’s position on referral fees was approved earlier this year by the Master of the Rolls, Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, and is due to be reviewed at the beginning of 2005.

Referral fees were approved as a result of a request from the Office of Fair Trading, and the burden of proof is now on the Council to show that a ban on referral fees is in the public interest.