Ontario Legal Marketing Rules

Skunkworks works with law firms and legal institutions in BC, Alberta, and Ontario. In order to properly serve our clients in these various provinces, we have to stay up to date on each province’s legal marketing rules.

In the past, we’ve posted blog entries discussing both BC and Alberta’s legal marketing rules. In this post, the focus will be on legal marketing in the Province of Ontario. 

Rule 3.02 Marketing Legal Services

In Ontario, the core rules governing the practice of legal marketing are rule 3.02, 3.03, and 3.04 in the Law Society of Upper Canada’s Code of Conduct. Rule 3.02 refers to the marketing of legal services and contains three subsections. The first of these three subsections, 3.02(1), defines marketing as:

“…advertisements and other similar communications in various media as well as firm names (including trade names), letterhead, business cards and logos.”

The second subsection, 3.02(2), defines appropriate ways for a lawyer to engage in marketing, it states:

A lawyer may market legal services if the marketing

(a) is demonstrably true, accurate and verifiable,
(b) is neither misleading, confusing, or deceptive, nor likely to mislead, confuse or deceive, and
(c) is in the best interests of the public and is consistent with a high standard of professionalism.

Included in this subsection is additional commentary regarding practices that violate the rules of legal marketing in Ontario. Marketing activities that are restricted include suggesting qualitative superiority to other lawyers, raising expectations unjustifiably, suggesting or implying that a lawyer is aggressive, disparaging other persons, groups, organizations or institutions, taking advantage of a vulnerable person or group, and using testimonials or endorsements that contain emotional appeals.

The third subsection, 3.02(3), refers to the advertising of fees and states:

3) A lawyer may advertise fees charged by the lawyer for legal services if

(a) the advertising is reasonably precise as to the services offered for each fee quoted,
(b) the advertising states whether other amounts, such as disbursements and taxes, will be charged in addition to the fee, and
(c) the lawyer adheres to the advertised fee.

Rule 3.03 Advertising Nature of Practice

Rule 3.03 dictates that a lawyer is not allowed to advertise that they are a specialist in any field unless that lawyer has been certified as a specialist by the Law Society of Upper Canada.

The rule does allow lawyers that are certified as specialists in one jurisdiction but not in another, to advertise as specialists in all jurisdictions so long as the certifying authority or organization is identified.  Additionally, the rule allows firms to advertise areas of practice and identify the firm’s proficiency or experience in specific areas of the law. However, the firm cannot be misleading in its representation and cannot make claims that they are the most proficient or the most experienced.

Dos and Don’ts

The Law Society of Upper Canada provides a full description of the various prohibitions for legal marketers in Ontario, however, the following are some dos and don’ts that will give you a quick summary of practices that you can implement and practices that you should avoid.

Lawyers in Ontario are allowed to engage in the following:

  • Mention their firms experience and proficiency in a specific practice area
  • Use non-emotional testimonials
  • List practice areas
  • Advertise Fees (so long as the representation is true and specifies what service the fee is associated with)

Lawyers in Ontario are not allowed to:

  • Use the word “specialist” or “expert” to refer to a lawyer that has not been certified as a specialist by the Law Society of Upper Canada or another relevant body.
  • Suggest their law firm or firm’s lawyers are aggressive
  • Attack other law firms or groups in their advertising material
  • Use emotional appeals

For more information, please refer to the Law Society of Upper Canada’s Code of Conduct

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