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Would a Reduction in the Advertisement of Legal Services Restrict Access to Justice?

The advertisement of personal injury litigation services is commonplace in today’s market by both lawyers and claims management companies. Such advertising is already comprehensively regulated thanks to the special regulatory regime established in Part 2 of the Compensation Act 2006. This regime requires claims management companies to apply for authorisation before operating and to abide by a code of conduct. As such claims management companies are restricted from engaging in high pressure selling, cold calling, advertising in medical or public buildings without the consent of the management of the facility or building, and offering immediate cash or similar benefits as an inducement to make a claim.

The Young Report of 2012 proposes further restricting the advertising of personal injury litigation services on the grounds that such advertising is a significant contributing factor to the so called ‘compensation culture’ within the UK. It should be noted at this juncture that the assertions made within the Young Report that legal advertising is directly linked to rise of a compensation culture seem unfounded. Indeed Sir Geoffrey Bindman QC claims that the majority of accident victims do not pursue claims; whilst David Bott, President of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers has stated that ‘…the government's statistics show that the number of claims has fallen in most categories during the past 10 years’. Furthermore, it should be remembered lawyers have been allowed to advertise their services since the mid 1980s, whilst the argument that we have developed a ‘compensation culture’ is a more recent phenomenon.

Whilst there is undoubtedly an argument that advertisement of personal injury litigation services is now too prominent, we must consider what further restrictions would mean.

In particular it may limit consumer choice, reduce public knowledge of the law and, raise the costs to consumers of finding a lawyer. It is essential that such considerations be weighed up before any action is taken to restrict legal services advertising.

Even if such advertising has contributed to the ‘compensation culture’ or has other unwanted consequences, it does not necessarily mean that it should be banned or restricted. It may be that the adverse effects of legal services advertising are worth tolerating so as to not disadvantage the vast majority of people to whom they serve a purpose.

Vincents Claims is part of Vincents Solicitors and as such is regulated by the SRA, for more information please call Jonathan Lavery in our Personal Injury Department on 0800 310 2222.