The 2002 amendment to the 1954 Solicitors Act on advertising by solicitors has been updated with a statutory instrument which came into force this summer.
Statutory Instrument 229 amends the 2002 regulations by relaxing the rules which have governed the manner in which solicitors may advertise.
The definition of advertising now extends to website maintenance and operation and the use of Google ad-words to promote a legal firm.
Adverts which are in poor taste and which could lower the reputation of the profession remain strictly forbidden.
The relaxation comes as a result of Article 24 of the European Union Services Directive of 2006.
This obliges Member States to “remove all total prohibitions on commercial communications by the regulated professions”.
However, commercial communications must remain in conformity with EU law, relating in particular to the “independence, dignity and integrity of the profession”, as well as to professional secrecy.
The Law Society currently provides an advertising vetting service for practitioners. Advertising which is in keeping with the 2002 regulations will not need to be further checked for compliance with the new regulations.
It is intended that advertising regulation will eventually transfer to the LSRA.