The Costs Lawyer Standards Board (CLSB) is set to introduce a new provision in its code of conduct that would prevent Costs Lawyers from ‘cold calling’ consumers.
In a brief consultation paper issued at the start of the month, the CLSB said unsolicited approaches – whether by way of phoning, writing, personal attendance or otherwise – invaded privacy, may put “undue pressure” on consumers and “represents a particular risk to vulnerable consumers”.
The regulator said it viewed such conduct as contrary to two elements of principle 1 of the code of conduct: to act professionally and with integrity, and not to act in any way which is likely to diminish public trust in the profession.
The CLSB said the regulators of “primary” legal services providers – solicitors, trade mark attorneys, patent attorneys and licensed conveyancers – have explicit bans on cold-calling, while those of “secondary” providers, namely barristers and Costs Lawyers, did not “as it was never anticipated those professions, in their secondary capacity, would ever make an unsolicited approach offering their legal services to a private individual”.
The consultation paper noted that, though some barristers are now able to take work directly from the public, the Bar Standards Board too relied on generic core duties to counter cold-calling.
Nonetheless, the CLSB is proposing to introduce a new paragraph in the code of conduct to ban cold-calling. The consultation provides no evidence of why such a change is needed, although CLSB chief executive Lynn Plumbley (pictured) told Costs Lawyer that “following a concern raised with the CLSB, it was considered appropriate to make this change to ensure clarity and ultimately, consumer protection”.
New clause 1.5 would state: “You must not make an unsolicited approach (cold call) by any means to a private individual (lay person) or to domestic premises (unless a business is being conducted from there) in order to publicise your service as a Costs Lawyer or your business.”
The CLSB stressed that this would not “restrain trade” between Costs Lawyers and businesses, such as firms of solicitors and other legal professionals.
The consultation seeks views on whether to make this change or leave such conduct to the general conduct principles. It closes tomorrow.