Shirley Wenger is a professional journalist and editor who has been working in the publishing industry for more than 15 years. She is an award-winning...Read more

The internet can be a reliable source of information when searching for goods and services. Honest consumers often leave helpful reviews which inform the purchases we make and the professionals we hire. It is important, however, to be wary of braggadocious claims designed to manipulate and deceive. There are many lawyers online who claim to be “the best” in the province or “the most experienced.” To paraphrase from one of the best – and humblest – attorneys I know about: delete the adjectives, then you’ll have the facts. Indeed, Atticus Finch was not a real lawyer, however the sentiment he communicates in this quote is not only true, it is also the law.

According to chapter four of the Ontario Law Society Rules of Professional Conduct, there are policies that professional lawyers must adhere to while marketing. Specifically:

A lawyer may market legal services only 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.

Lawyers who adhere to the principles listed above would never claim, for instance, that they are superior to their contemporaries. After all, such a claim is subjective and not likely to be supported by facts. While it is appropriate for a prospective client to consider testimonials left by real people who have real experience with the services of a given lawyer or firm, bold claims made by attorneys themselves, on their own behalf, should not be trusted. According to the Ontario Law Society, specific examples of this fraudulent behaviour include, but are not limited to: 

(a)  marketing services that the lawyer is not currently able to perform to the standard of a competent lawyer;

(b) bait and switch marketing, that is marketing by which clients are attracted by offers of services, prices or terms different from those commonly provided to clients who respond to the marketing;

(c) marketing that fails to clearly and prominently disclose a practice that the lawyer has of referring clients for a fee, or other consideration, to other licensees;

(d) failing to expressly state that the marketed services will be provided by licensed lawyers, by licensed paralegals or both, as the case may be;

(e) referring to awards, rankings and third-party endorsements that are not bona fide or are likely to be misleading, confusing, or deceptive.
In To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch is praised by a close friend who declares he is “the same in the court-room as he is in the public streets.” When choosing a lawyer keep in mind that a lack of professionalism in marketing may translate to a lack of professionalism in the court-room as well.

Shirley Wenger is a professional journalist and editor who has been working in the publishing industry for more than 15 years. She is an award-winning writer and her work has been featured in various publications, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Time Magazine.

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