Legal advice columns
This notice is intended as general guidance in relation to the subject matter and does not constitute a definitive statement of law. Reference to a ‘solicitor’ includes a reference to a firm of solicitors in this context.
All practising solicitors are reminded that, as per the Solicitors (Advertising) Regulations 2002 (SI no 518 of 2002), an ‘advertisement’ means any communication that is intended to publicise or otherwise promote a solicitor in relation to the solicitor’s practice.
When deciding whether a legal advice column constitutes an advertisement, the advertising exemption as set down by regulation 12 must be considered. Under this test, a publication is not considered to be an advertisement but is, rather, a communication primarily intended to provide information on the law where:
- The publication is an article on a legal topic,
- No part of the space has been paid for by or on behalf of the solicitor,
- The publication has not been repeated with the same or substantially the same content.
Where a legal advice column satisfies this test, the exemption under regulation 12 shall apply and the article would be considered to be a communication primarily intended to give information on the law. Where an article does not satisfy this test, that is, if it has been paid for by or on behalf of the solicitor, or where it has enjoyed repeated publication, the article is subject to the regulations in the normal way.
An example of how the regulations would apply to a legal advice column that falls outside the regulation 12 exemption would be where the column relates to medical negligence. As with all other types of advertising, regulation 8(b) requires that any reference to any subcategory of personal injury must also carry an asterisk that correlates with the disclaimer: “In contentious business, a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement.” Therefore, to be fully compliant with the regulations, any legal advice column that has medical negligence as its subject matter, which does not fall under the regulation 12 exemption, must make clear reference to the abovementioned disclaimer in connection with contentious business.
Eamonn Maguire is the Law Society’s advertising regulations executive and is contactable at 01 672 4800 or firstname.lastname@example.org.