This Week in Legal Ethics – New Professional Conduct Ruling

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LegalEthicsBannerBy Melanie Hodges Neufeld

The Law Society’s Ethics Committee recently released the following Professional Conduct Ruling as guidance for the profession. For your convenience, I’ve listed the ruling below but it can also be found in our Professional Conduct Rulings Database.

Date: September 15, 2016
Cite as: 2016 SKLSPC 8
Code Chapter: 4.2 – Marketing of Legal Services
Code Heading:  Marketing; Marketing of Professional Services;
Classification: “leading”; “full service law firm”
Practice Area: General

Facts:

A Practice advisor was appointed by the Professional Standards Committee to conduct review of the practice of Member X.

In the review report, the Practice Advisor noted the following that Member X’s practice is 75% family law, 15% criminal defence, and 10% miscellaneous.

The Practice Advisor further noted that Member X’s website contained the following under the heading “ABOUT US”:

Law Office XYZ is a leading full-service law firm [emphasis added] whose professional provides straightforward, comprehensive and efficient legal services.

Under the heading “Our Services” it states:

Family Law                 Criminal Law              Public Notary

Decision:

The Ethics Committee considered whether it is appropriate to use the word “leading” in describing Law Office XYZ and whether is it appropriate to describe Law Office XYZ as a “full service law firm”, given that the website identifies only three practice areas.

The Committee determined that:

The term “leading” indicates a certain superiority to other lawyers and that is problematic and should not be used. The Committee acknowledged that Member X had removed any reference to being “leading” prior to the Committee’s review and decision. The Committee appreciated Member X taking that step without direction from the Committee being required and expressed its approval of the change.

Relating to the concept of “full-service law firm”, the issue is more complex. There are many law firms in the province that describe themselves as “full-service”. These firms do not necessarily practice in every area of law. The Committee was not willing to determine which areas of practice a law firm must offer in order to be labeled “full-service”.

Lawyers in the province have the ability to practice in all areas of law, subject to practice conditions imposed by the Law Society, despite the fact that they may choose to primarily practice in specific or limited areas of law. Even though Member X chooses to practice in three primary areas, there would be no reason he could not provide services outside those three areas, if a client approached him and Member X felt competent to do so.

 

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