EC ad rules may hurt UK lawyers

NEW advertising rules could be enforced on British lawyers following a European Commission inquiry into standards.

The commission is sending out questionnaires to test the views of law societies, bar associations and other self-regulating bodies. New advertising standards could then be put before the European Parliament.

The Law Society is concerned that restrictions could damage profits just as the economy moves into recovery. It is believed that the most liberal rules apply in Britain.

Alison Crawley, head of policy in the professional ethics division of the Law Society, says: “We would call on the Government to defend the status quo. There should be no further restrictions whatsoever. They should be making it easier to advertise in Europe.

“Business needs to be encouraged. We need to ensure that this does not become a situation where European bodies are protecting their own restrictive practices. We may be slightly more liberal here than in some other countries.”

In a major test case in February of this year, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the Barcelona Bar Associa-tion was “not unreasonable” in preventing lawyer Casado Coca from advertising his name and telephone number.

British lawyers practising in Spain have to abide by more strict Spanish rules. It is not known whether the Coca case indicates Brussels' opinion on the subject of legal advertising.