The last decade has seen a radical evolution in the field of marketing and advertising around the globe. This need was further escalated during the Pandemic of 2020, where the world saw an unprecedented dependency on digital presence and customer content was the main propeller to drive businesses or services irrespective of the field of expertise. A digital platform became the common driving force for expansion and dominance.
The legal field, being largely and commonly known as the noble profession, has extremely region-specific norms of acceptability and strict standards for permissible activities of marketing and advertising. However, the rules become blurred when access to ready information is the need of the hour and delivery of that information, whether intentional or unintentional, by a lawyer or law firm via a digital medium could translate to potential clients and a much larger reach which physically would have otherwise been impossible
When considering the advantages of the innovative platforms via which, marketing and advertising can be executed, it becomes clear that this by far seems like the future of legal marketing and advertising:
- Digital channels allow one to target a precise market and reach out to the right prospects which in turn improves the response rate and eventually clientele;
- The digital market is a result-oriented market; it is quite easy to measure the online success of a law firm accurately with growth charts and numbers. This also provides a clear idea of what one must do to capture the market;
- It is comparatively less time and energy-consuming to establish a reputation online than the traditional ways of marketing.
Having said that, it is imperative for lawyers, law firms and marketers to have a clear and deep understanding of the laws, rules and regulations prior to conducting any advertising activity.
We requested a few of our members from different parts of the world to share their inputs on how advertising is governed in their jurisdiction, which is as follows:
Member: Odeon Avocats
In France, while advertising by lawyers has been permitted since 1972, canvassing was prohibited, making it an infrequent practice.
However, in a judgement of 5 April 2011, the CJEU challenged the prohibition on canvassing for new clients by the regulated professions.
It is thus really since 2014 with the so-called “Hamon” law, transposing the European directive on consumer rights, that in France, the legal profession is authorised to use advertising and personalised solicitation with potential future clients.
In addition to traditional means of communication (business cards, directories, websites, etc.), lawyers may now use various media to promote their services, such as advertising objects, films, radio or television.
However, it is still forbidden to canvass clients physically or by telephone, in particular by using SMS, MMS and voice messages sent to the telephone answering machine via an automatic call machine.
Advertising that is misleading or deceptive, that compares or denigrates other lawyers, or that is likely to create in the mind of the public the appearance of a non-existent practice structure and/or an unrecognized professional qualification is also prohibited.
Advertising must include certain compulsory information enabling the lawyer to be identified.
Advertising by lawyers is therefore very closely supervised and must under no circumstances contravene the essential principles set out in the National Rules of Procedure which apply to the entire legal profession.
Member: HJM Asia Law & Co LLC
Legal advertising for Singapore law firms is regulated by the Legal Profession (Publicity) Rules 1998. Whilst there are no restrictions on the publishing of advertisements (including unsolicited advertisements) law firms are required to comply with the following requirements when publishing any advertisement:
- Any claim or expertise of the lawyers can be justified;
- Past client cases and references to clients cannot be mentioned if in breach of confidentiality;
- The success rate of the law firm cannot be mentioned;
- Comparison or criticisms of fees or quality of services provided by other law firms; and/or
- Misleading, deceptive, inaccurate or false advertising.
The use of social media is strongly encouraged in an increasingly competitive legal market. This should include, for example, regular articles and newsletters and presentations published on social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and (of course) the law firm’s own website.”
Member: YULEX, Attorneys and Strategists, LLP
Traditionally, Quebec’s laws and regulations have been reluctant to allow any forms of advertising in the practice of law.
Today, there are specific rules, as set forth within the Code of Professional Conduct of Lawyers and the Professional Code, that shall be followed by any legal entity which desires to advertise its services, for example:
- The services advertised must accurately reflect their offerings;
- Any false publicity, coercion, harassment, or constraint within publicity is prohibited;
- Any references to past client experiences and testimonials are prohibited;
- The use of graphic symbol of the Barreau is authorized but regulated;
- For the sake of transparency, all past advertising materials must be kept by the advertising entity for 12 months following its publication.
To enhance the firm’s visibility, YULEX, Attorneys and Strategists, LLP is active on LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook. It has been beneficial to use these platforms to transmit our legal expertise through short legal articles, webinars, and podcasts. Therefore, further increasing the trust of our audience.
Member: Solomon Blum Heymann LLP
Each U.S. state and territory has adopted its own rules with regard to lawyer advertising and other ethics matters. The rules of many states are similar, however. As our offices are in New York, we will focus on the situation in New York State.
Under New York’s Rules of Professional Conduct, advertisements by attorneys may not contain a statement or claim that is false, deceptive or misleading, or that otherwise violates any other rule of professional conduct. Almost all communications with a potential client aimed at obtaining that client’s business are considered advertising. As such, those communications must be labelled “attorney advertising.” The exceptions to this Rule are communications the purpose of which is to educate the public about legal matters or to inform the public about its rights, under the premise that the primary purpose of the communication is not to generate business. Consequently, newsletters, client alerts, or blogs intended to educate recipients about new developments in the law are not considered “attorney advertising” in most cases.
Member: Ahlawat & Associates
The legal profession in India has always been regarded as a noble profession, in the sense that it is aimed towards the well-being of the members of the society. Keeping this in mind, there is a statutory bar on advertising and solicitation by lawyers in India. Rule 36 of Section IV of the Bar Council of India Rules reads – “An advocate shall not solicit work or advertise, either directly or indirectly, whether by circulars, advertisements, touts, personal communications, interviews not warranted by personal relations…”. The Bar Council of India Rules of course provides for an exception (to the aforementioned) by allowing lawyers to operate a website for displaying information about the services being offered by them. In addition to the website, lawyers and law firms in India have the tendency to look at our avenues (such as the publication of articles, blogs, videos, etc. on various legal topics) for gaining traction in the otherwise competitive Indian legal industry.
Lawyers and law firms may freely advertise their services in Spain, provided that such advertising is in full compliance with a) the general legislation on advertising, defence of competition and unfair competition; and b) the General Statute of the Spanish Legal Profession (from now on “The General Statute”) and applicable deontological rules.
“The General Statute”, in force since July 2021, offers special attention to the advertising of professional services, recognizing the above mentioned principle of freedom, but also establishing certain clear deontological limits aimed at protecting the essential principles and core values of the Spanish legal profession – independence, freedom, dignity, integrity, and confidentiality.
More specifically, the “General Statute” states that lawyers’ publicity shall not suggest:
- The direct or indirect disclosure of facts, data or situations is protected by confidentiality.
- The generic or specific incitement to litigation or conflict.
- The offer of professional services to victims of accidents or misfortunes, as well as catastrophes, public calamities or other events that have produced a high number of victims, except when expressly requested by the victim.
- The promise to obtain results that do not depend exclusively on the activity of a particular lawyer/ law firm.
- The reference to clients without their authorization.
- The use of emblems or symbols could generate confusion.
- The mention of activities that are incompatible with the practice of the legal profession.
- Mentions to the specialization in certain legal matters, whenever such specialization does not respond to the possession of specific academic or professional degrees on the legal matters in question, to the passing of officially approved training courses of professional specialization or to a professional practice that endorses them.
A common element that arises is that irrespective of the jurisdictions across the globe, the legal advertising and marketing rules and regulations shroud an all-inclusive permissible standard. However, when studying them closely, lawyers will find that this does not limit the reach for lawyers, it only sets a benchmark to follow. False misleading advertisements, dishonesty, deception, unjustifiable portrayal of expertise, are the reasons the rules are in place. The protection of the integrity of the profession is the very reason for these rules. The success of using the various potential platforms of advertising is to be true to the profession and deliver on the commitments as marketed. Viewing the legal professional regulations as a strength and marketing as a tool on the innovative platforms, is the essential denominator that will push the boundaries of the norms.