Ontario’s Law Society Tribunal Hearing Division was cut up on the advertising practices of one of the province’s largest real estate law companies, which goes via Real Estate Lawyers.Ca LLP.
A panel of adjudicators stated that many of the company’s mailers violated law society guidelines in their classified ads of fees and disbursements. But panel contributors Thomas Conway and Barbara Laskin disagreed with chair Barbara Murchie approximately whether or not the advertising and marketing of the call Real Estate Lawyers.Ca LLP amounted to expert misconduct.
The choice comes after Law Times reported in April that actual estate legal professionals endured promoting its constant-charge offerings with exceptions, despite tighter regulations passed using the Law Society of Ontario two years in the past. Lawyers told Law Times that some advertisements for block-rate real property law covered incentives for leaving online opinions that raised questions about the quality of services.
The June 7 disciplinary selection, Law Society of Ontario v. Rothman, 2019 ONLSTH seventy-five, focuses on lawyer Shayle Rothman of Parnes Rothman LLP, the company that trademarked the emblem offering Real Estate Lawyers.Ca LLP. The firm mailed out two September 2016 advertisements that presented “costs for felony services without specifying that there would be additional disbursements.” The tribunal said this amounted to “minimal” misconduct.
Still, the tribunal brushed off concerns approximately different elements of the company’s advertising, such as giving $a hundred discounts for online evaluations.
“Mr. Rothman actively seeks comments from clients and offers a $a hundred rebate for it, and the Law Society pointed to no complaints,” wrote Murchie in her selection. “The Law Society’s grievance, that ‘lowest legal costs guaranteed’ become not defined on the website, is without merit and underestimates the intelligence and capacity of a moved customer quickly.”
Rothman says the firm is satisfied the tribunal’s majority decided to brush aside eight of the nine allegations made with law society’s aid. Gavin MacKenzie and Brooke MacKenzie, who represented Rothman, say it is good that the tribunal recognized that lawyers ought to be “accepted, if now not endorsed, through the Law Society to marketplace their offerings to the public in new and innovative ways to fulfill the needs and expectancies of the consuming public.”
“Our company is pleased that the Tribunal identified the importance of purchasers having access to correct advertising to make knowledgeable decisions while maintaining lawyers to behave on their behalf when purchasing or selling their domestic,” Rothman says. “We were particularly thrilled that the Tribunal determined our use of Real Estate Lawyers.Ca LLP, to be right, as it appropriately describes our firm’s exercise.”
In her selection, Murchie stated that in contrast to many disciplinary choices, Rothman had no longer “marketed awards that he had paid for, or that he marketed he become in a big company while he changed into a sole practitioner,” and that Rothman’s advertisements have been “now not unquestionably complicated.”
“The Law Society says Mr. Rothman breached the guideline via advertising that the firm ‘specialized’ in real estate transactions when he had no longer been distinctive as a ‘licensed professional’ by way of the Law Society. Mr. Rothman explained that 90 [percent] of the firm’s practice is an actual estate and ‘specialized’ changed into utilized in that context,” wrote Murchie. “We find that the announcement that the firm specialized in real property is accurate and does now not breach the guideline…. Members of the public could maximum probably be ignorant of the licensed specialist designation.”
The panel’s selection notes that Rothman saw a possibility to “scale up” the current real estate law commercial enterprise version in a business plan, which included not only online advertising but also storing files for retired legal professionals, specializing in transaction volume and supplying free mobile signing.
“Some will say that this version of doing enterprise correctly commoditizes the exercise of the actual residential estate; others will say that his version for the shipping of felony offerings for real property transactions is modern and lengthy overdue,” the panel stated. “Given the regular growth inside the wide variety of residential real property transactions that his firm closes in a month, the actual residential estate market for prison services seems to have welcomed his enterprise model.”
However, Murchie dissented from the relaxation of the panel on one factor: the firm’s call.
Conway and Laskin concluded that purchasers searching out actual property lawyers are “capable of conducting a web search.”
“To endorse that a name descriptive of offerings is greater difficult than a traditional name which includes the surnames of partners isn’t always in our view sustainable. Many well-known law firm names consist of the surnames of companions lengthy long past from practice, or deceased, an aspect that might similarly be considered misleading for people out of doors the professions who are not acquainted with the naming traditions commonplace among law firms,” stated Conway and Laskin. “The buy or sale of actual residential property is for maximum customers the largest unmarried criminal transaction that they may be in all likelihood to make of their lives.”
But Murchie wrote in a partly dissenting opinion that the name Real Estate Lawyers.Ca is deceptive.
“On its face, Real Estate Lawyers.Ca LLP suggests an entity that encompasses all real property attorneys or a listing of all actual property lawyers instead of a unique firm,” Murchie wrote. “The Law Society selected to regulate company names for PCs but not for LLPs. If it meant the company call approval process to apply to LLPs in addition to PCs, it should have amended its by-regulation accordingly.”