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Advertisement for Lawyers & Law Firms in the Singapore: Is It Permitted?

Traditionally, the legal profession held a strict stance against marketing or advertising law firms. It was widely perceived as improper to promote one’s own legal services due to the prestige associated with the profession and concerns about maintaining a balance of power between lawyers and clients. In the past, merely having your firm’s information published in sources like newspapers or the Yellow Pages was considered inappropriate. However, with advancements in technology and changes in client behavior, the landscape has evolved. Clients today are more informed and have access to a wealth of information that was not available in the past. Consequently, advertising legal services is no longer frowned upon as it once was.

In Singapore, advertising legal services is permitted but must comply with the limitations outlined in the Legal Profession Act. This means that advertisements must be truthful, not misleading, and uphold the dignity of the legal profession.

Moreover, in the face of disruptions caused by events like the COVID-19 pandemic, law firms are compelled to adapt and find ways to thrive amidst reduced business activity. This may involve strategic advertising and marketing efforts to maximize business earnings during challenging times.

Regulations for Legal Advertising in Singapore

In Singapore, advertising and marketing activities fall under the purview of several laws, including the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act, the Competition Act, the Singapore Code of Advertising Practice, and the Personal Data Protection Act. These laws cover areas such as misleading advertisements, unfair trade practices, competition regulations, data protection, and other related matters.

Legal advertising for Singapore law firms is governed by the Legal Profession (Publicity) Rules 1998. While there are no restrictions on the publication of advertisements, including unsolicited ones, law firms must adhere to the following requirements:

      • Claims or expertise of lawyers must be justifiable.

      • Mentioning past client cases or references to clients is prohibited if it breaches confidentiality.

      • Success rates of the law firm cannot be advertised.

      • Comparisons or criticisms of fees or service quality provided by other law firms are not allowed.

      • Advertising must not be misleading, deceptive, inaccurate, or false.

    In an increasingly competitive legal market, the use of social media is strongly encouraged. This may include regular articles, newsletters, and presentations published on platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and the law firm’s own website. Additionally, advertisements must also comply with the Singapore Code of Advertising Practice.

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    Advertisement Through Press or TV

    Advertisements via press or TV, unlike the distribution of flyers in public places, are not considered touting or reasonably regarded as such. This is because press or TV advertisements do not pose the risk of direct-in-person solicitation, which could lead to potential clients being subjected to undue influence, intimidation, or overreaching by their lawyer or representative.

    Moreover, since press or TV advertisements lack the element of direct in-person solicitation, the public’s need for information about legal services outweighs concerns about the commoditization of legal services. Therefore, advertisements via press or TV would not be considered “unbefitting the dignity of the legal profession” under rule 44(1)(b) of the Legal Profession (Professional Conduct) Rules (PCR 2015) (S 706/2015) or “likely to diminish public confidence in the legal profession or otherwise bring the legal profession into disrepute” under rule 44(1)(a) of the PCR 2015.

    TV Commercials

    A legal practitioner must ensure that a TV commercial advertising their law practice does not give rise to any reasonable misinterpretation under rule 44(1)(b) of the PCR 2015. This is crucial because TV commercials, typically brief, are primarily seen by laypersons who may easily form misconceptions that are hard to correct.

    A TV commercial may be deemed misleading if it:

        • Contains a material misrepresentation, such as claiming to be a leading family law practice without expertise or experience in family law.

        • Omits to state a material fact, for instance, failing to mention that the law practice only handles uncontested divorce matters if it lacks expertise in contested divorce matters.

        • Provides unverifiable information, like offering only a contact number without stating the name of the law practice.

        • Creates unjustified expectations about the results that can be achieved, such as promising to recover party and party costs in a civil matter.

      A TV commercial may be considered unbefitting the dignity of the legal profession under rule 44(1)(b) of the PCR 2015 if it implies that other law practices overcharge their fees or include price lists. However, it is acceptable for the commercial to generally mention fixed fee arrangements to provide peace of mind and meet budgetary concerns.

      Nevertheless, for proper compliance with Rule 17 of the PCR 2015, it is advisable that a legal practitioner’s duty to disclose detailed fee information be personally explained to the client rather than highlighted in a brief TV advertisement.

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      Complimentary Advertising in Newspaper

      Accepting an offer of complimentary advertising in a newspaper is not improper for a law practice, as long as the advertising aligns with the regulations outlined in rules 43 and 44 of the PCR 2015. Specifically, the description of the law practice’s specialization in the advertisement must adhere to rules 43(1)(a) and 43(2) of the PCR 2015.

      Filming at Law Practice’s Office Premises

      There is no explicit prohibition against filming in the Legal Profession (Professional Conduct) Rules 2015 (PCR 2015). However, every legal practitioner within the law practice is responsible for ensuring that filming adheres to all rules governing publicity in Singapore, outlined in Part 5 of the PCR 2015.

      Therefore, the name of the law practice should not be revealed in any scenes, as such disclosure may reasonably be considered as touting under rule 43(4) of the PCR 2015. However, it is acceptable for the name of the law practice to appear in the closing credits as an acknowledgment of its participation.

      Additionally, every legal practitioner within the law practice must uphold their ethical obligations as per rule 6 of the PCR 2015. This includes taking all necessary measures to prevent the disclosure of confidential information to the film crew or any third party during filming within the office premises. For instance, all confidential files and documents should be securely stored out of sight during filming.

      In conclusion, advertising for legal services in Singapore is governed by strict regulations outlined in the Legal Profession Act and the Legal Profession (Professional Conduct) Rules. These rules aim to maintain professionalism, uphold ethical standards, and protect the interests of clients. Key points include ensuring that advertisements are truthful, not misleading, and comply with guidelines regarding fee disclosure, client confidentiality, and avoiding comparisons with other law firms. Additionally, the use of social media for advertising is encouraged, but must also adhere to the same regulations. Failure to comply with these rules may result in disciplinary action by the law.


       

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