The Law Society of Upper Canada is proposing certain amendments to the Rules of Professional Conduct and is seeking input from the profession by October 16, 2015. The amendments cover a variety of topics, including conflicts of interest, doing business with a client, incriminating physical evidence, advertising, and short term legal services (pro bono context mainly).
I found the most interesting proposed changes were to the rules on advertising. The Call for Input Document states that since the last amendments to these advertising rules "there appears to have been a significant increase in the incidence and scope of lawyer advertising and regulatory concerns have prompted a review of these Rules." Have we gone too far with our tv commercials and bus ads?
The new Rules would set out certain marketing practices that would contravene the Rules (which in the current Rules are only in the Commentary as practices that may contravene), including: advertising that suggests or implies that the lawyer is aggressive; referring to awards or endorsements without providing relevant information (including the source of the award, the nomination process and if any fees were paid by the lawyer (directly or indirectly)); as well as using testimonials which contain emotional appeals (how would you define emotional appeal?).
The new Commentary to the Rule would provide examples of marketing practices that may contravene the Rules including: failing to disclose that the legal work is routinely referred to other lawyers for a fee rather than being performed by the lawyer; advertising awards and endorsements from third parties without disclaimers or qualifications; and misleading the public on the size of the lawyer's practice (so, no more saying "our lawyers" or "we" when you are a sole practitioner?)
The full Call for Input Document can be found here.
Erin C. Cowling is a freelance litigator, researcher & writer at Cowling Legal Freelance and President and Founder of Flex Legal Network Inc., a network of freelance lawyers.