The regulation of advertising by solicitors has been taken over by the Legal Services Regulatory Authority (LSRA) from today (18 December).
The new regulations will apply to print, audio and visual advertisements, including online advertising.
Coming under the scope of the new regulations will be:
- Firms of solicitors,
- Limited liability partnerships (LLPs) which advertise their legal services,
- Groups of legal practitioners, who share a facility, premises or cost of practice, who advertise themselves as a group.
The changes mean that advertising by solicitors is now regulated by the LSRA (previously the Law Society was the regulator for solicitors) and that barristers’ advertising is subject to statutory rules for the first time.
Solicitors previously were able to seek prior approval for their advertisements from the Law Society’s vetting service, which was a defence to any potential complaint.
This prior approval is not available under the new regulations.
The LSRA has sought views on the new regulations over the past year and received 19 submissions, with a further five submissions from professional representative bodies.
The LSRA also liaised with the EU Commission and the Department of Justice.
Dignity and integrity of profession
Legal practitioners are allowed to advertise their legal services but the LSRA is charged under the act with the restriction necessary to protect the independence, dignity and integrity of the legal profession.
The regulations largely reinforce already existing prohibitions on legal services advertising. They also create new restrictions on the content and form of advertisements.
The prohibitions include:
- The use of the phrases “no win no fee”, “no foal no fee” and “free first consultation” or similar in advertisements which refer to personal injuries as part of the legal services provided
- Advertisements which include an amount of possible damages for personal injury claims that are not based on the Book of Quantum produced by the Personal Injuries Assessment Board or guidelines by another statutory body,
- Advertisements in any form in an inappropriate location such as a hospital, clinic, doctor’s surgery, funeral home, cemetery, crematorium or similar
- Advertisements which solicit, encourage or offer inducement to a person or a group to make claims for personal injuries or seek legal services in connection with such claims,
- Advertisements which refer to the “success rate” of a legal practitioner.
Also banned under the regulations are advertisements which are:
- Likely to bring the legal profession into disrepute,
- Are in bad taste,
- Reflect unfavourably on another legal practitioner,
- Are false or misleading.
An advertisement must also state by whom it is published.
Consumers can notify the LSRA of a breach or alleged breach of the regulations. The LSRA may carry out investigations into particular advertisements, either on foot of a complaint received or on its own initiative. The main features are:
- The LSRA may decide that a particular advertisement contravenes the regulations or the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015,
- If so, the LSRA will give the legal practitioner time to restrict the publication of the advertisement or take other steps it directs,
- The LSRA can apply to the High Court for an order prohibiting a legal practitioner from contravening the regulations.
The Legal Services Regulation Act 2015 (Advertising) Regulations 2020 are available here
The Law Society will now take the necessary steps to repeal the Solicitors Advertising Regulations 2019.
All queries in relation to the new regulatory regime should be made directly to the LSRA, via the email address: LSRA-inbox@LSRA.ie.
For further information, visit: www.lsra.ie/for-law-professionals/advertising-legal-services/.