Law Soc makes conflicting claims over hard-sell tactics

A NOTTINGHAM firm embroiled in a names-for-cash marketing controversy says lawyers from across the country are asking for more details of a venture the Law Society may now ban. Nelsons is paying Gateshead database marketing company Legal Marketing Direct for a list of 500 accident victims who expressed an interest in taking legal action.

Under current rules the scheme is allowed but Law Society president Martin Mears has condemned the practice and signalled a rethink of the Law Society's advertising and marketing rules which have been relaxed in recent years.

Nelsons head of PI Bruce Williams said several firms from around the country had contacted his office expressing an interest in the scheme which had prompted accusations of ambulance chasing in several national newspapers.

“We have no problems with the scheme and plan to write to the names unless the rules are changed. While there is a need to maintain ethical standards, the Law Society must be aware that law firms are operating in a very competitive market place.”

The Law Society appeared uncertain how to respond when details of the scheme first emerged. In The Daily Telegraph a spokesman was quoted defending the venture, claiming it was “not necessarily a bad thing” for people to be made aware of their rights.

But Mears later said the practice crossed the line from telling people what their rights were to encouraging litigation.

Standards and guidance committee chair Paul Venton said he would be happy to re-examine the publicity code but did not see anything wrong with the scheme “if it is just a matter of names and addresses of people who have had accidents and have indicated they might consider making a claim being supplied to solicitors”.

The Law Society currently draws a distinction between the Gateshead scheme and the one operated by the Midlands firm Clan exposed in a recent Lawyer investigation where canvassers introduced Green Form claimants to law firms for a fee (see letters, page 10).