Notice to the Professions: Advertising Rules and Referral Fees

Posted: 03/16/2017


Advertising rules amended

The lawyer and paralegal conduct rules were amended by Convocation in February to directly address certain false and misleading advertising practices.

New rules:

  • Require licensees to identify in their advertising whether they are a lawyer or paralegal;
  • Prohibit advertising of second-opinion services.

The amendments also:

  • Provide detailed guidance on what awards may be used for marketing purposes;
  • 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.

Lawyers and paralegals must bring their marketing materials in line with the new rules as quickly as possible.

The Law Society has established a multi-functional enforcement team to address advertising and fee issues.  In the event the rules are not followed, the Law Society will vigorously investigate and take appropriate regulatory action.


Referral fees to be capped

The Law Society plans to set a cap and establish new requirements for the fees a lawyer or paralegal may charge for referring a client to another licensee. The new policy, which was approved in principle at February Convocation, addresses concerns that current referral fee systems are not transparent or beneficial to the client.

To implement the policy, Convocation will consider the following in the coming months:

  • The amount at which referral fees will be capped;
  • Changes to advertising rules to provide further guidance to licensees regarding their obligations;
  • Additional transparency measures such as requirements for:
    • A standard referral agreement to be signed by the client, referring licensee and the licensee accepting the referral;
    • The client to be provided with more than one choice of lawyer or paralegal in the referral;
    • Licensees to record referral fees paid or received in a manner accessible to the Law Society on request;
  • Certain limited prohibitions, for example, on up-front referral fees.