LSRA takes over regulation of advertising by legal practitioners
On Friday 18 December 2020, The LSRA (Legal Services Regulatory Authority) took over the regulation of advertising by legal practitioners, with the introduction of new regulations.
The Legal Services Regulation Act 2015 (Advertising) Regulations 2020 apply to print, audio and visual advertisements, including online advertising.
The regulations apply to solicitors, firms of solicitors and barristers as well as limited liability partnerships (LLPs) who advertise their legal services, and to groups of legal practitioners, who share a facility, premises or cost of practice, who advertise themselves as a group.
The changes mean that advertising by solicitors is now regulated by the LSRA (previously the Law Society of Ireland was the regulator for solicitors) and that barristers’ advertising is subject to statutory rules for the first time.
Legal practitioners are allowed to advertise their legal services. The regulations largely reinforce already existing prohibitions on legal services advertising. They also create new restrictions on the content and form of advertisements.
The prohibitions in the regulations include:
- The use of the phrases “no win no fee”, “no foal no fee” and “free first consultation” or similar in advertisements which refer to personal injuries as part of the legal services provided.
- Advertisements which include an amount of possible damages for personal injury claims that are not based on the Book of Quantum produced by the Personal Injuries Assessment Board or guidelines by another statutory body.
- Advertisements in any form in an inappropriate location such as a hospital, clinic, doctor’s surgery, funeral home, cemetery, crematorium or similar.
- Advertisements which solicit, encourage or offer inducement to a person or a group to make claims for personal injuries or seek legal services in connection with such claims.
- Advertisements which refer to the “success rate” of a legal practitioner.
Also not permitted under the regulations are advertisements which are likely to bring the legal profession into disrepute; are in bad taste; reflect unfavourably on another legal practitioner; are false or misleading.
An advertisement must also state by whom it is published.
LSRA investigation and enforcement
Consumers can notify the LSRA of a breach or alleged breach of the regulations. The LSRA may carry out investigations into particular advertisements, either on foot of a complaint received or on its own initiative. The main features are:
- The LSRA may decide that a particular advertisement contravenes the regulations or the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015.
- If so, the LSRA will give the legal practitioner time to restrict the publication of the advertisement or take other steps it directs.
- The LSRA can apply to the High Court for an order prohibiting a legal practitioner from contravening the regulations.
Further details can be found on the LSRA website here.