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.
Although the Solicitors (Advertising) Regulations 2002 make no explicit reference to social media, the definition of ‘advertisement’ is inclusive of both social media and all other online advertising platforms:
“‘advertisement’ means any communication (whether oral or in written or other visual form and whether produced by electronic or other means) which is intended to publicise or otherwise promote a solicitor in relation to the solicitor’s practice”.
Such a definition therefore encompasses all forms of new online media, for example, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and, as such, the same care needs to be taken to comply with the regulations when publishing advertisements to any and all online platforms.
The Law Society enforces the regulations through the Advertising Regulations Division of the Regulation of Practice Committee. The regulations are interpreted and applied by the Society in such a way that, while not imposing a ban on advertising, they are robust and clearly delineated, thereby upholding the three-pronged purpose of the regulations:
- To preserve the reputation of the profession,
- To protect the public interest,
- To ensure that a level playing field is maintained across the profession.
In due course, section 218 of the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015 will remove the involvement of the Society in regulating advertising.
However, practitioners should note that section 218(4) echoes the spirit and intention of the existing regulations, insofar as restrictions on the advertising of legal services may be made when they are necessary for:
- The protection of the independence, dignity, and integrity of the legal profession,
- An overriding reason relating to the public interest, and are Non-discriminatory and proportionate.
As section 218 has yet to be given a commencement date, the Society’s regulations represent current law and, as such, continue to be enforced rigorously by the Society.
If a solicitor is unsure as to whether an advertisement is compliant with the regulations, it can be submitted for review to the Society’s vetting service in advance of publication.
Eamonn Maguire is the Society’s advertising regulations executive and is contactable at 01 672 4800 or firstname.lastname@example.org.