In recent years, thanks to the intrusion of the media, the issue of whether and within what limits lawyers can advertise their law practices has been posed.
Every legal system has dealt with this issue in a different way, so that – whereas in United States the advertising of legal services is now widespread (a case in point is that of television commercials) – Italy is, instead, progressing very slowly to opening up to this form of advertising.
As is well known, in Italy the role played by lawyers is not comparable to that carried out by entrepreneurs, since the legal profession is one which necessarily needs to be carried out with dignity and decorum.
Italian deregulation law (Law Decree no. 223 dated July 4, 2006, converted by Law no. 248 dated August 4, 2006,) has, however, permitted lawyers to conduct informational advertising about their professional qualifications and specializations, as well as about the characteristics of the service being offered and the price and the total cost thereof, provided that this is done in accordance with criteria of transparency and truthfulness.
Subsequently, Law Decree dated 13 August 2011, converted by Law no. 148 dated 14 September 2011, has established that informational advertising can be conducted by any means and that the information must be transparent, truthful, correct and should not be ambiguous, misleading, derogatory.
In other words, informational advertising is permitted, provided that it does not constitute misleading, laudatory and comparative advertising.
The case brought to the attention of the United Sections of the Italian Supreme Court (judgment no. 10304/13) was an interview given by a Lawyer on a monthly magazine whose title was Between Germany and Italy, helping clients to establish joint ventures and partnerships abroad. A. G.S. recounts his twenty years of professional experience in putting businesses in the forefront.
The said lawyer’s bar association was of the opinion – which was also shared also by the Supreme Court Judges – that the content of the interview, far from containing references to the legal problems arising from the commercial and corporate issues referred to in the title of the article, consisted in four pages which lingered, instead, on the structure, powers and activities of the lawyer in question, enriched with numerous photographs.
In doing so, the lawyer in question was masking behind an interview what was, in fact, informational advertising, misleading readers who were not able to perceive immediately the contents of the article.
Basically what was at issue was not so much the content of advertisement, as the surreptitious manner in which it was made, since both the type of article and the title thereof was apt to misled readers, who would expect to read an interview about problems arising from business partnerships with foreign countries and not an overview of the features and specializations of the law firm in question.
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