03 December 2012

Fine triggers row of law firm advertising

A row has broken out over legal profession marketing in New South Wales after two lawyers were hit with significant fines for breaching the Australian state's strict rules.

By Jonathan Ames

Personal injury lawyers in advert row

Personal injury lawyers in advert row

Robert Bryden and Lee Hagipantelis of Sydney-based personal injury specialist practice Brydens Compensation Lawyers were together fined A$96,000 ($92,300) for six instances of professional misconduct when the Administrative Decisions Tribunal found they had used banned advertising techniques.

Aggressive approach

According to a report in the Lawyers Weekly newspaper, the ads encouraged victims of a disgraced local surgeon to contact the firm. The move has sparked debate in the local profession over the criteria used by the prosecutors, as it is alleged that firm’s advertising approach was no more aggressive than standard practice among competitors.
Mr Hagipantelis declined to comment on the specific judgment, although he raised concerns over broader regulation policy, telling the newspaper: ‘My issue is with the regulations that prohibit the advertising of services this firm has provided for 40 years. If there are to be such regulations then they must be enforced uniformly and consistently to ensure a level playing field.’

No inconsistency

The criticism has forced the commissioner to defend its prosecution policy. Steve Mark told Lawyers Weekly that there was ‘no inconsistency’ in the tribunal’s approach. ‘We are not selective,’ he said. ‘We respond to what is brought to our attention. Last year we received 56 referrals from members of the profession that resulted in the initiation of complaints.’
However, his office was criticised for having recently sent other personal injury firms letters warning them to remove similar advertising from their web sites, but without bringing prosecutions. Mr Mark maintained the commission had made the two lawyers prosecuted aware of its concerns for the last six years and that had they received ‘numerous notifications’.

Allens election

Elsewhere in Australia, the partnership at leading business law firm Allens has elected Ian Wallace as chairman.
According to a report in Australian Legal Business, the banking and finance specialist has been a partner since 1989 and has been previously been the management board’s deputy managing partner. He succeeds Ewen Crouch, whose current term finishes at the beginning of next year.

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