When I wrote The Solicitors Guide to Marketing and Growing a Business in 2015 formal regulations enabling solicitors to advertise here had been operational without any change for thirteen years.
In 2002 the web as we know it today was in its infancy, Google was only a four year old and Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn were mere twinkles in the eye. The Solicitors Advertising Regulations 2002 were designed to deal primarily with print advertising in newspapers and things like the Golden Pages (remember that?) and as a result, struggled to keep up with the rapidly changing online landscape.
However, those 2002 regulations shaped the nature of advertising for the solicitor’s profession and are what most colleagues are familiar with in their understanding of what you can and can’t do when it comes to marketing and advertising your legal services
The Introduction of New Advertising Regulations
But we had new Solicitors Advertising Regulations introduced by the Law Society in 2019, which altered the position significantly but were very little known about by colleagues. The Legal Services Regulatory Authority formally took over the regulation of advertising for all legal practitioners in 2020 and on 17 December 2020 the LRSA published the Legal Services Regulation Act, 2015 (Advertising Regulations) Regulations 2020. It’s not the snappiest title in the world and doesn’t appear to have generated an awful lot of the excitement, but it amounts to a quiet revolution in the advertising of legal services in terms of the transformation of what legal practitioners can do and how they can do it to legitimately promote their businesses and the services that they provide for the benefit of the public.
What is important to bear in mind here is that since 2002 we had the Services Directive 2006 which at Article 24 said that “Member States shall remove all total prohibitions on commercial communications by the regulated professions.” The 2002 regulations were not considered anything like sufficient to meet these criteria when it came to solicitors and, of course, there were no regulations at all when it came to barristers. Therefore, the 2020 Advertising Regulations represents the first time that practising barristers have a regime pursuant to which they can advertise their services.
It seems that in passing the first regulations back in 2002, nobody actually wanted solicitors to advertise at all. It is clear from the Dáil debates surrounding this legislation that politicians didn’t want solicitors advertising and many of the great and good in the profession at the time looked down upon the grubby prospect of advertising as beneath them. The way in which solicitors were first allowed to advertise in reflects that and those regulations said more about what solicitors couldn’t do than what they could.
The 2002 regulations stated that an advertisement published by a solicitor shall not include more than the name, address, telephone number, place of business and professional qualifications of the solicitor along with factual information on the legal services provided by the solicitor. They then went on very generously to enable solicitors to mention things as exciting as their hours of business.
So this extremely tight regulatory straightjacket has been the framework within which Irish solicitors’ advertising has grown up over the last two decades and it has informed how practitioners have used advertising to grow their businesses, or not in so many cases, because of the extremely restrictive and pedantic regime.
In 2019 this changed significantly in updated regulations which reframed the manner in which advertising for solicitors was permissible. This was a major change that received very little attention within the profession. Then on 17 December 2020 the LRSA introduced new Advertising Regulations which continued in this vein, the first time that we’ve had such regulations issued other than by the Law Society of Ireland.
Over the past 18 months, the advertising landscape for Irish legal practitioners has changed enormously, opening up considerable new opportunities in terms of how Irish solicitors and barristers can go about growing their businesses and advertising their services in a perfectly responsible and respectable manner just like most other business owners.
It’s a change and significant opportunity that has gone unnoticed by many, join us to find out how you can seize it to your advantage.
We will be hosting a webinar on March 4th 2021, titled ‘The Quiet Revolution in Advertising of Irish Legal Services’. On this call, myself, Flor McCarthy, Author of The Solicitor’s Guide to Marketing and Martin Lawlor former Chair of the Advertising Regulations Division of the Regulation of Practice Committee of the Law Society of Ireland will explore how the advertising landscape for Irish legal practitioners has changed and what opportunities now lie in store for you as a practitioner as a result. Register here now.
Flor McCarthy is Managing Partner of McCarthy + Co. Solicitors LLP and Author of the award-winning book The Solicitor’s Guide to Marketing and Growing a Business; How to Turn Your Legal Practice into a Financial Success, the leading work on legal professional services advertising and marketing in Ireland.
On this webinar he will be joined by Martin Lawlor, Managing Partner of Coughlan Kelly, Solicitors and former Chair of the Advertising Regulations Division of the Regulation of Practice Committee of the Law Society of Ireland.