Marketing for your legal profession can now be done online. However, if you are practicing your legal profession in Ontario, Canada, there are certain rules that you have to know. Applying those rules is a rule of thumb. Otherwise, legal marketing will not succeed. In the end, it is not favorable to you.
So, you should know the rules on ads for lawyers if you want your profession to become successful. Take note that you are in tight competition when you are a lawyer. You must make sure that your professional investment yields the desired results. Make sure that you follow the rules of legal marketing.
Rules on Ads for Lawyers in Ontario
The core rules governing the practice of legal advertising in the Province of Ontario are Rules 4.02, 3.03, and 3.04 of the Law Society of Ontario’s Code of Conduct. Rule 4.02 pertains to the advertising of legal services and is divided into three (3) subsections. The first of these, 4.02(0), defines marketing as follows:
“…advertisements and other similar communications in various media as well as firm names (including trade names), letterhead, business cards and logos.”
Subsection 4.02(1), describes a range of useful advertising techniques for a lawyer. It further mentions that:
A lawyer may advertise legal representation services if the advertisement includes the following items:
- Can be proven to be true, accurate, and verifiable:
- Is not deceptive, confusing, or misleading, and is unlikely to misinform, confuse, or defraud; and
- Is in the public’s interest and adheres to a high degree of expertise.
This subsection contains supplemental information on practices that break the rules of legal services advertising in Ontario. Marketing efforts that are forbidden include trying to suggest qualitative supremacy towards other lawyers.
As well, it is restricted to unjustifiably raising expectations, suggesting or implying that a lawyer is forceful, denigrating other people, organizations, entities, or establishments, trying to exploit a susceptible group or person, and then using personal testimonies or endorsement deals that contain emotive language.
The third subsection, 3.02(3), deals with fee advertising and states:
A lawyer may advertise and market legal services with fees only if:
- The legal marketing services are fairly specific in terms of the services provided for each fee cited;
- The advertisement specifies what additional charges, such as expenses and taxes, will be imposed in addition to the law firm service charge; and
- The lawyer charges the stated fee.
More Information About the Legal Advertising Rules
Convocation, the governing body of the Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC), has approved specific rule changes governing legal advertising in Ontario. The new regulations will:
Give Specific Instructions on Which Awards May Be Used for Advertising Purposes
Modifications to the rules give the professions specific guidance on the types of honors and awards that are allowed in legal advertising. Among the specific prohibitions are referring to awards that are not genuine, are likely to be misleading, confusing, or deceptive, are not the result of a “reasonable evaluative process,” or are purchased.
Prohibit the Sale of Second Opinions on Legal Services.
While providing second opinions is a useful service to customers, the LSUC has stated that the exercise of the so-called “bait and switch” when advertising a second opinion service is prevalently used to acquire a retainer rather than to provide such a second opinion and is thus uncalled for.
Demand Legal Licensees
Demand legal licensees to specify, in all their advertising content, whether they are a lawyer or a paralegal service provider.
According to the LSUC, this move will raise public awareness of the various types of licenses. Furthermore, they can assist the public in making more informed decisions about the legal services that are needed. The modifications will require lawyers or legal professionals to market their services and to inform the public that they are licensed as lawyers.
Paralegals and Lawyers Are Not Permitted to Promote Work When Not Certified or Permitted
It is important to note that paralegals and lawyers are not permitted to promote work that they are not certified or permitted to do.
If a legal professional is not competent to conduct legal services, then he or she is not allowed to advertise that they are a licensed legal services provider. The revised rules offer specific guidance to lawyers as well as paralegals in such aspects.
This is to make sure that they are completely aware of their public obligations. Specific prohibitions include marketing services that a lawyer is not currently competent to provide or having failed to obviously and significantly divulge a profession of alluding customers for a service charge.
What Tends to Happen if Legal Professionals Infringe on Legal Marketing Regulations?
Well, it’s difficult to say. It’s easy enough to find law firm web pages that appear to be breaking the rules. Notwithstanding, there aren’t many online resources available on recent cases of lawyers experiencing penalties for violating advertising standards. What we do understand is that the punishments under the Competition Act, Canada’s primary advertising and marketing legislation, are as follows:
- Taking the Competition Tribunal to court.
- Announcing publicly that you’ve done something bad and that you’re deeply sorry.
- Individuals face fines of up to $750,000, while corporations may face fines of up to $10 million.
- Making the needed reparations.
What Should Really Be Done Now?
Learn how the digital age and the economy are rapidly changing the advertising and marketing legal framework. From developing confidentiality and consumer protection concerns to new problems and concerns in advertising and marketing legal practices, there is something for everyone.
You just have to find a legal entity that will guide you. In this case, you can try dNovo Group. They have a website that can provide you with the necessary tools and materials that can help you deal with Canada’s ever-changing regulations and sets of rules. As a legal practitioner, you should not circumvent any rule or law regarding legal services.