What are the rules about solicitors’ advertising generally?
The general advertising rule for solicitors is in the Australian Solicitors Conduct Rules 2012 ('ASCR') which commenced on 1 June 2012.
Rule 36 states:
36.1 A solicitor or principal of a law practice must ensure that any advertising, marketing, or promotion in connection with the solicitor or law practice is not:
36.1.2 misleading or deceptive or likely to mislead or deceive;
36.1.3 offensive; or
36.1.4 prohibited by law.
36.2 A solicitor must not convey a false, misleading or deceptive impression of specialist expertise and must not advertise or authorise advertising in a manner that uses the words “accredited specialist” or a derivative of those words (including post-nominals), unless the solicitor is a specialist accredited by the relevant professional body.
In addition under the Australian Consumer Law (Cth) (formerly the Trade Practices Act 1974 (Cth)) there are prohibitions on misleading or deceptive conduct (s.18), false or misleading representations about services (s.29) and misleading conduct as to the nature etc. of services (s.34) - see further the Legal Services Commission’s Regulatory Guide 7: The Application of the Australian Consumer Law to Lawyers. These provisions also apply as a law of Queensland – see Part 3 Fair Trading Act 1989 (Qld).
In 1996 the Federal Bureau of Consumer Affairs issued Guidelines for the Advertising of Legal Services. These guidelines aim to assist lawyers to avoid making misleading or deceptive representations.
The Law Institute of Victoria has issued Direct-Marketing Guidelines which cover ‘cold-calling’ and mail-outs. There are no equivalent Queensland guidelines but Professor Gino Dal Pont has described these as representing ‘good practice’ (Lawyers’ Professional Responsibility 5th edition (2012) at p.642 - available from the Supreme Court library on request: Document Delivery).
‘Casting the first stone: Lawyers’ liability under s 52’ Natalie Skead (2008) 16 TPLJ 6. This article on the former Trade Practices Act provisions is available from the Supreme Court library on request: Document Delivery.