Solicitor advertising

19/01/2021

Access a useful guide to the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015 (Advertising) Regulations 2020.

solicitor-advertising-regulations

Background

From 18 December 2020, responsibility for the regulation of the advertising of legal practitioners, including solicitors, transferred from the Law Society to the Legal Services Regulatory Authority (‘the Authority’).

Members are assured that advertisements relating to all legal services (except ‘personal injuries’, see below) that were published in compliance with the Society’s Solicitors Advertising Regulations 2019 will remain compliant with the LSRA regulations, and no further action is necessary.

The Society considers the LSRA regulations to be a positive and effective realignment of the previous regulatory regime and is pleased that the Society’s Solicitors Advertising Regulations 2019 provided a useful template for the construction of the LSRA Regulations, and that its written submissions and recommendations were incorporated into the new regulatory regime.

General prohibitions

Although the LSRA regulations are very similar in content to the previous regulations, members are reminded that section 4 continues to prohibit advertisements that:

  • are likely to bring the legal profession into disrepute,
  • are in bad taste,
  • reflect unfavourably on another legal practitioner,
  • are false or misleading in any respect, or
  • are published in an inappropriate location.

More generally, advertisements are also prohibited from making any express or implied reference to the success rate of the legal practitioner, or to include statements about the legal practitioner’s success rate.

Personal injury legal services

Previously, the Society took a pro-active approach towards enforcing the statutory restrictions on the advertising of personal injury legal services, and it supports the additional specifications now contained in the LSRA regulations. In summary, the Authority’s new regulatory regime makes clear that advertisements relating to ‘personal injuries’ shall not:

  • expressly or impliedly solicit, encourage or offer any inducement to any person or group or class of persons to make claims for personal injuries or seek legal services in connection with such claims,
  • include words or phrases such as “no win no fee”, “no foal no fee”, “free first consultation”, or other words or phrases of a similar nature which could be construed as meaning that legal services in connection with claims for personal injuries would be provided by the legal practitioner at no cost to the client,
  • refer to the quantum of a possible award of damages save insofar as by reference to the Personal Injuries Assessment Board Book of Quantum or other guidelines as may be published by the Personal Injuries Assessment Board or other statutory authority or statutory body,
  • expressly or by implication suggest that there are circumstances in which legal services involving contentious business may be provided without there being any risk that the client may be required to pay costs to any other party or parties, unless that actually represents the legal position.

In addition to the above, any advertisement relating to ‘personal injuries’ must now include a clear reference to the prohibitions on charging costs in the circumstances contained in section 149 of the Act of 2015.

Online advertising

Members are advised to exercise caution in respect of any connection (known or otherwise) that they may have online with other advertisements. Where an online advertisement published by (or on behalf of) a solicitor links to other information available elsewhere online, the solicitor is personally responsible for the publication of the linked advertisement. An obvious example of this would be Google, which lists hyperlinks of websites based on key search words.

Gender neutrality

More general recommendations that were made by the Society, and were incorporated into the LSRA regulations, also included the amendment to the definition of ‘client’ from ‘his’ to ‘his/her’. This was considered necessary for the purposes of gender neutrality.

Communication to give information on the law

As per the Society’s recommendation, the previous exemption clause that distinguished between an advertisement and a “communication to give information on the law” has also been retained. This is to be welcomed as this clause, now found under section 10 of the LSRA regulations, provides an effective distinction between general advertisements and information pieces that serve an overriding public interest.

Society’s vetting service no longer available

As the Authority is now wholly responsible for regulating the manner in which legal practitioners advertise their professional services, the Society no longer provides a vetting service to members where advertisements were approved prior to publication.

Contact details

All queries relating to the new regulatory regime should be made directly to the Authority. For further information, please visit the LSRA website.

A guidance note on all of the above will also be available in the Jan/Feb edition of the Gazette.

eNewsletters

This article originally appeared in the 12 January 2021 member eZine. For more information, and to subscribe, visit eNewsletters.