What are the rules about advertising as a ‘specialist’ or ‘expert’?
You need to address two issues in relation to the Australian Solicitors Conduct Rules 2012 ('ASCR') to be able to make such claims.
The first issue is whether you can justify this claim, as a matter of fact. If not, then your claim may:
- be false, misleading, deceptive, or likely to mislead or deceive - contrary to Rule 36.1 of the ASCR; or
- convey a false, misleading or deceptive impression of specialist expertise contrary to Rule 36.2.
In relation to these provisions generally see What are the rules about solicitors' advertising generally? - in particular the Federal Government’s Guidelines for the Advertising of Legal Services.
Clearly if you are a QLS accredited specialist you are justified in claiming to be a specialist or expert in that specific area of law, but you need to make sure that your advertising follows the QLS Specialist Accreditation Board’s Marketing Guidelines – most importantly ensuring it is clear that the accreditation is yours personally and not that of your law practice or anyone else.
Also, a claim to be a specialist or to specialise is likely to be seen to be a claim to expertise rather than just to a preferred or usual area of practice, so do not make such a claim in this latter sense.
The second issue with the ASCR is in relation to that part of Rule 36.2 which states:
A solicitor 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.
This makes it clear that you may only use the words “accredited specialist” or a derivative of these words if you are a QLS Accredited Specialist.
“Derivative” is not defined in the ASCR or the Legal Profession Act 2007 (Qld). The Legal Service Commission’s view has been that it is likely that the word “specialist” is a derivative in terms of the rule. Presumably also the word “accredited”.
Clearly also you may only use the QLS Accredited Specialist logo and post-nominals if you are a QLS Accredited Specialist.
For more information on the QLS Specialist Accreditation Scheme please call 07 3842 5926 or firstname.lastname@example.org.