Opportunity to comment on marketing of legal services

The Ethics Committee is seeking comments from the profession on Chapter 14 (Marketing of Legal Services) of the Professional Conduct Handbook.

The Benchers have identified a general review of the chapter as one of the Law Society's priorities. They have directed the Committee to review the current rules and propose changes.

Some of the impetus for the review comes from the recent report of the Competition Bureau of Canada, Self regulated professions: Balancing competition and regulation. The Federation of Law Societies is also looking at the comments of the Competition Bureau in the context of its drafting of a Model Code of Professional Conduct for Canada.

The major recommendations of the Competition Bureau with respect to lawyer advertising are the following:

  • Generally, law societies should lift any unnecessary restrictions on advertising — that is, any restriction above and beyond the prohibitions on false, misleading and deceptive advertising — unless they can justify their existence.
  • In particular, law societies should remove restrictions on the size, style and content of advertisements and allow non-lawyers to be compensated for referring services or clients.
  • Law societies should evaluate the possibility of adopting a specialist certification program similar to that in Ontario. Alternatively, law societies could consider allowing members to be identified as leading practitioners in publications that rely on data from independent parties approved by the law societies' ethics committee, as is the case in Saskatchewan.
  • Law societies should abolish prohibitions on comparative advertising of verifiable factors, such as price.

The Ethics Committee has already received a submission regarding Chapter 14 of the Handbook from the Legal Marketing Association, Vancouver Chapter, on the issue of third-party testimonials and expects to receive a further submission from the Association on Chapter 14 issues generally.

To make a submission about any unwarranted constraints you feel lawyers face under the current marketing rules, or on the general approach of the Law Society to marketing, contact Jack Olsen, Staff Lawyer, Ethics by November 12, 2008.