Law Society strengthens advertising rules in the public interest

Posted: 02/23/2017

Advertising Rule AmendmentsConvocation amended the conduct rules governing the advertising of legal services, adding new public protection measures, at its meeting on February 23, 2017.

The new advertising rules strengthen existing requirements and provide proactive guidance to lawyers and paralegals on appropriate advertising practices.

“The new advertising requirements reinforce the core principles that advertising must be demonstrably true, accurate and verifiable,” says Malcolm Mercer, chair of the Law Society’s Advertising and Fee Arrangements Issues Working Group.

In summary, the amended rules:

  • Provide detailed guidance on what awards may be used for marketing purposes. Amendments to the rules provide specific direction to the professions on the type of awards and honours that are permitted in advertising.
  • Require licensees to identify in their advertising whether they are a lawyer or paralegal. This will enhance the public’s awareness of the different types of licences and help the public make a more informed choice of legal service provider.
  • Prohibit advertising of second-opinion services. The Working Group found that the main purpose of second-opinion advertising was to attract already-represented clients with the intention of having the client switch lawyer or paralegal — rather than to market valuable second-opinion services. Under the new rules, second-opinion services are still permitted. The Working Group found that the public is well-informed of the right to seek a second opinion and to change lawyer or paralegal. Advertising of this service is not required.
  • Make explicit that lawyers and paralegals may not advertise for work they are not licensed to do, not competent to do or do not intend to do. The amended rules provide additional guidance to lawyers and paralegals in these areas to ensure that they are fully aware of their obligations to the public.

“Lawyers and paralegals are expected to follow the Rules of Conduct,” said Law Society Chief Executive Officer, Robert Lapper, Q.C.  “In the event that the Rules are not followed, the Law Society will vigorously investigate and take appropriate regulatory action.”

The Advertising and Fee Arrangements Working Group

The Law Society established the Advertising and Fee Arrangements Issues Working Group in February 2016 out of concern that certain advertising practices and fee arrangements were misleading and detrimental to the public. The Working Group reports to the Professional Regulation Committee.

Over the past year, the Working Group researched the issues, held a series of focus groups with practitioners and stakeholders, and consulted with the public and the professions.

The Working Group will continue to consider contingency fee arrangements, and advertising and fees in real estate.

See the Working Group report to Convocation, fact sheet and the Working Group web page for further information.

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