Annotations to Chapter 4 – Marketing of Legal Services

Annotations to rule 4.2-5 Content and format of marketing activities

It is misleading for lawyers with a Juris Doctor degree (J.D.) to use the title”‘Dr.” in front of their names.
EC March 2015, item 6

It is not improper for a lawyer who has earned an S.J.D. degree to use the prefix "Dr." in marketing materials.
EC March 2012

A lawyer may refer to his firm in marketing materials as “international” where lawyers for the firm are permitted to practise in jurisdictions in more than one country.  [PCH]
EC June 2011, item 6 

It is acceptable for a lawyer to own and use a domain name that, if used as the name of a law firm would be improper, but as a domain name is only used to advertise the firm by providing a link to the proper name of the firm.  [PCH]
EC April 2011, item 4 

The following names are improper, since they suggest that more than a single lawyer comprises the firm:

  • Smith & Company, Barristers & Solicitors
  • Smith, Jones and Black, Barristers & Solicitors
  • Smith and Partners
  • Smith and Associates

The following names are not improper when the firm is comprised only of one lawyer

  • Smith and Company, with Bill Smith shown with the words “Barrister & Solicitor”
  • Smith, Jones and Black, with Bill Smith shown with the words “Barrister & Solicitor”
  • Smith Law Group  [PCH]

EC April 2007, item 6 

A law firm name such as BC Forestry Law or BC Forestry Law Services is improper. The use of the term BC in a law firm's practice is misleading because it conveys a false sense of official approval of the lawyer's practice. [PCH]
EC June 2006, item 2

Lawyers cannot use a firm name that is sufficiently similar to another name in use by an existing firm if it may cause confusion to the public. A lawyer cannot use the firm name B Lawyers to practise in Vancouver where another firm B and Company already exists in North Vancouver. It may be reasonably confusing to the public. And, the use of the term lawyers implied there was more than one lawyer at the firm. Since B was a sole practitioner, the use of the name was misleading and improper.  [PCH]
EC April 2006, item 3

All elements of a testimonial must meet the requirements of the Rules they must be both true and verifiable. This includes any statements of fact made by former clients giving a testimonial. It is not enough that the former client believes a statement to be true; the statement must be verifiably true as well. Statements by a former client that the lawyer gave great advice or that the lawyer is professional or knowledgeable cannot be verified and therefore are contrary to the Rules.  [PCH]
EC March 2006, item 3

Verifiable means that a particular claim or statement made by a lawyer in marketing activity is capable of verification by an independent observer through the objective examination of evidence. It is not necessary that the evidence be available in the marketing activity itself.  [PCH]
EC February 2004, item 4

It is misleading for a lawyer to advertise that a law firm is Canada's National Franchise Law Group and to state that the firms making up the group are individually recognized as leaders in franchise law. It may, however, advertise itself as a national franchise law group and to state that the firms making up the group are individually recognized in franchise law.  [PCH]
EC May 2000, item 9

In showing qualification to practise in other jurisdictions, it is misleading to say simply that a lawyer is qualified to practise in the United States when such a qualification will be specific to a particular state or states. It is proper for a firm to indicate that a lawyer is qualified to practise in one or more jurisdictions in the United States.  [PCH]
EC April 2000, item 10

It is improper for a lawyer to operate a firm named after a particular area of law and bearing no other distinguishing features.  [PCH]
EC, October 1998, item 7

It is not improper for a lawyer to advertise by delivering handbills containing marketing information provided the contents of the handbills are in accordance with the Rules.  [PCH]
EC September 1995, item 9

A lawyer may use a testimonial provided all factual elements in the testimonial meet the standards set out in Chapter 14, Rule 4 of the Professional Conduct Handbook and all statements of opinion are honestly stated.  [PCH]
Benchers' Bulletin, No. 4 Winter 2009

A lawyer who sent local realtors advertising flyers featuring evening-gowned young women, offering a free bottle of champagne for every conveyancing referral made to the member's law office by a realtor, and offering the possibility to win prizes including two beautiful hostesses to assist at one open house was found guilty of professional misconduct for steering and for violating the marketing rules.  [PCH]
DCD 94-01

Annotations to rule 4.2-8 Designation

Non-practising lawyers have an obligation to disclose their status on letterhead or other marketing activity. They must disclose their status and its implications when they are representing a client where failure to do so would mislead someone. This includes an obligation to advise prospective clients if the lawyer is not covered by professional liability insurance for the matter.  [PCH]
EC December 2003, item 5

It is not contrary to the Rule for a lawyer to describe a non-lawyer by a designation generally understood to be the equivalent of a designation set out in the Rule, such as paralegal in place of legal assistant, or student-at-law in place of articled student.  [PCH]
EC Oct 5 2000, item 13

A non-practising lawyer may not designate himself as a retired member on firm letterhead unless he meets the criteria for that designation set out in Law Society Rule 403 [now Rule 2-4].  [PCH]
EC March 1998, item 9


Annotations to rule 4.3-0.1 Preferred areas of practice

Before a lawyer would be permitted to use the services of a commercial lawyer referral service, it would be necessary for the lawyer to be able to comply with the Rule relating to preferred areas of practice with respect to any areas of practice in which the lawyer offers services.  [PCH]
EC March 2000, item 7

It is proper to incorporate an area of practice into the firm name provided the firm is entitled to list an area as a preferred area of practice (see Law Society Rule 9-1).  [PCH]
EC February 1999, item 7


Annotations to rule 4.3-1 Specialization

A lawyer obtained a certificate from a university program called the “Professional Specialization Certificate in International Intellectual Property Law.” The Committee determined that the words “professional” and “specialization” in the certificate did not justify their use in marketing materials. Their use in this context may mislead the public into thinking the certificate confers a special status in BC in the practice of international intellectual property law. Reference to the certificate without using those two words would be acceptable.  [PCH]
EC April 2007, item 4

Where a lawyer is entitled to state preferred areas of practice, it is reasonable to refer to them as areas of “expertise.” Provided the lawyer does not use other language, which suggests a special status or accreditation, the use of the term “expertise” alone is acceptable.  [PCH]
EC January 2007, item 9

Use of any of the terms "expert," "expertise" or "specializing" by a lawyer in marketing materials is not inherently objectionable unless the use of such terms is false or misleading or takes place in a context that suggests the lawyer is claiming a special status or accreditation.  [PCH]
Benchers' Bulletin, No. 4 Winter 2009

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[BC Code] refers to an annotation that was created during the time the BC Code was in effect (from January 1, 2013) and is not based on or does not refer to a provision of theProfessional Conduct Handbook.

[PCH] refers to an annotation to the former Professional Conduct Handbook, which was in effect from May 1, 1993 to December 31, 2012. Lawyers should consider the possible differences between the Handbook and the BC Code when determining the extent to which an annotation is still relevant.

EC refers to Ethics Committee minutes. For example, the reference "EC March 2005, item 6" refers to item 6 of the Ethics Committee minutes in March 2005.

DD refers to Discipline Digest. For example, the reference "DD 04-05" refers to discipline digest number five in 2004.

DCD refers to Discipline Case Digest. For example, the reference "DCD 01-27" refers to discipline case number 27 in 2001. (Note that in 2007 Discipline Case Digests were phased out and became Discipline Digests.)

LSBC refers to Law Society hearing reports. For example, the reference "2003 LSBC 20" refers to hearing report number 20 in 2003.

For more information on the annotated BC Code, see the Introduction to the Code of Professional Conduct for BC.