Lawyers, and specifically those working on contingency, should be able to have short, easy to read contracts, that clearly lay out their fees, without having to add pages and pages of terms in an effort to comply with the Solicitor’s Act.
My understanding is that this issue has been extensively canvassed. The recommendations put forward should be implemented and monitored, with new direction taken where other developments in the licensing and service delivery landscape warrant fresh consideration.
LSO’s work to provide Ontario’s lawyers with model contingency fee agreements has been commendable. This is an example of HELPING and SUPPORTING lawyers to provide valuable and needed legal services to the public.
These issues have been robustly reviewed, consulted and reported on. The recommendations put forward on the issues largely meet the concerns raised. As with all things, monitoring and amendment where appropriate should take place.
The current advertising rules are effective and should be kept in place. However, referral fees should be banned, especially in the area of real estate law.
As a personal injury lawyer, I am frustrated and disgusted by some of the advertising and techniques I see being used by some lawyers and firms to market their practices, including fake law firm websites, misleading language, misleading statements regarding firm size and location, misuse of awards and rankings in advertising, and the tasteless targeting of vulnerable people. The LSO needs to do more to enforce existing restrictions, proactively investigate, and respond quickly and decisively when complaints are received.
I chaired the Advertising and Fee Arrangement Working Group and support its recommendations which have been adopted by Convocation.
Contingency fees are a good idea in theory, as they provide access to a lawyer that might otherwise be unavailable. Contingency fee agreements were terrible and incomprehensible for the client. Many of them contained several pages of dense, confusing information. I support a standardized agreement. I know that Andrew Spurgeon is working very hard on making such an agreement that does not contain dense, confusing information. I also support advertising that is clear and true. Lawyers, of all people, should be advertising honestly.
The public needs to be protected from false or misleading advertising and referral fees need to be capped
I support the current by law requirements. and recommendations for improvements. With the increasing prominence of social media, continued monitoring and adaptation to technological change is necessary. Model fee contingency agreements are an example of the work the LSO can do to facilitate access to justice.
I support the Advertising and Fee Arrangement Working Group’s recommendations adopted by Convocation.
I am a current member of the Advertising and Fee Arrangements Working Group. As such, it would be improper for me to comment beyond referring you to the recommendations passed by Convocation to date.
The LSO recently began cracking down on misleading advertising. That need to be continued.
I believe the most important dimension of this issue is whether we risk further consolidation of the legal marketplace (which impairs access to justice) by approving new forms of marketing and novel fee arrangements. If it can be clearly demonstrated that this is not unduly disruptive, further changes might prove themselves unproblematic.
With the exception of addressing misleading or unprofessional advertising, how a lawyer markets his or her practice ought to be a business decision made by the lawyer. Similarly, provided that fee arrangements are clearly disclosed and not unconscionable, they ought to be an issue between the lawyer and the client, subject of course to oversight by the Court.
Advertising rules ought to be better defined for the profession and lawyers must know that the rules will be enforced in a consistent, even-handed manner.
This has been one of my major goals in Convocation. Truth in advertising is critical. We need a “level playing field” and need to ensure the public is not subject to “fish and bait” tactics or mislead by false advertising.
Similar to my answer on “Duty and Technology”, the LSO needs to stay in their lane. Advertising and business arrangements have little to nothing to do with proper regulation of lawyers. Market forces and the laws of our province do perfectly fine in dealing with these issues. Curtailing advertising though obsolete perspectives and overbearing regulation sets us back and our ability to help the public.
It’s unclear why Convocation felt this was any priority at all.
The LSO must regulate in a way that not only protects the public but also allows for the widest range of service possibilities.
LSO should set clear rules with respect to advertising referrals and should take fast and decisive action to penalize practices that bring the entire profession into disrepute. I support a simple, short, and clear contingency fee agreement. I am concerned about recent discipline cases where serious breaches of the Rules of Professional conduct have resulted in token fines. Poor advertising practices bring the entire profession into disrepute.
The LSO has reviewed this issue and is putting in place mandatory contingency fee agreements which all lawyers will have to use. I support this.
The rules governing advertising and fee arrangements ought to be well-defined, consistently enforced and generally minimal. I would support a program whereby members have the option to seek approval for specific advertisements and campaigns in advance. When it comes to spending money on marketing campaigns, it is preferable to ask for permission rather than forgiveness.
Hiring a lawyer is not like buying a big screen television. The new advertising rules that I helped to create during my last term as bencher need education and enforcement to protect the public from licensees who violate the rules and bring our profession into disrepute. I hope to continue this work during my next term as bencher.
I strongly support the current working groups recommendations
The draft proposal needs a slow go approach. We need to avoid third party referral mills, just like we need to avoid puppy mills.
I adopt the concerns of the Working Group on Advertising and Fee Arrangements and echo some of the issues raised by the profession around lack of clarity in fee arrangements. Having been to several fee assessments in Ottawa where I have specifically addressed considerations raised by the Assessment Officer, I think that it is vital to have a reminder of the mechanics of fee arrangements, clarity for clients and responsiveness in respect of addressing client expectations. I do not believe that lawyers should immunize themselves around a boiler plate of explanation and technical arrangement, but rather, that clearly explained and transparent fee arrangements should be consistently negotiated, explained and revisited, where necessary, to make sure that clients are aware of the structure of how fees are being billed.
Subject to the views of lawyers and law firms who occupy this space, together with their clients (or potential clients), I would not alter the status quo.
The dignity of the profession should be balanced with the business need we have to financially survive.
Not an area I am very familiar with.
Simply making more rules is not the answer. Enforcement is often problematic. Individuals who advertise outside their scope, including unlicensed or paralegal licensees, need to be dealt with more efficiently. Ensuring that all licensees are providing fair and accurate information in their advertising is essential. We should remember that advertising was originally allowed to better inform the public of the services lawyers provide and use that as a starting point.
I see little need to tinker with the fundamentals of the status quo, which I see as ensuring public protection in a framework that allows lawyers to solicit business responsibly. I am of course always interested to hear from those in specific practice areas who may feel the implementation is perhaps in need of reassessment.
I am the Chair of the Advertising and Fee Arrangements Working Group at the Law Society. We are completing development of a mandatory standard form contingency fee agreement which would greatly simplify the relationship between clients and lawyers who work on contingency. It will be a tremendous step forward for the profession and the public we serve.
Regulation of the content of lawyer advertising is a central part of the LSO mandate. Advertising is the way we communicate with the public, and the quality and content of that advertising must be regulated strictly in the public interest. However, I do believe that the referral fee regulations are too restrictive. It would be better to sanction individuals or firms that abuse referral fee arrangements, rather than to make referral fees unduly limited for all practitioners.
The work that has been done thus far appears to be working and we should wait to see if this continues.
The LSO should not be concerned with the advertising practices of individual Licensees, or the contractual arrangements between Licensees and their clients.
Provided that a lawyer is still maintaining their professional ethics obligations, how a lawyer markets their practice should be left to their discretion. As long as fee arrangements are clearly disclosed to clients, fee arrangements should also be left to the discretion of lawyers.
I am in favour of a more clearly defined notion of permissible advertising. The Law Society, in my view, has allowed advertising to get out of hand, and the proliferation of advertising has affected the public’s perception of the legal profession, not necessarily in a positive manner. Advertising needs to be fact-based, with fewer “claims” made in advertisements that cannot be supported by facts. The use of “awards” as an advertising technique also needs to be regulated, to avoid misleading claims being made.
I need to learn more about this issue before commenting.
The rules are there. We don’t need more. And if we are obligated to be open and share our fee arrangements, then we should not be limited in the sources of revenues we seek to enhance our delivery of services. Providing legal services is a business. We need to be treated like any other business. A restaurant can seek advertising revenues from any and every source possible. Would anyone be surprised that Coke or Pepsi have exclusive arrangements with certain chains? No. Why is the business of providing legal services any different, provided that conflict of interest rules are respected.