Barrister ads: EU puts pressure on Ireland to ease restrictions

Critics of restrictions say easing them could mean substantial reductions in legal costs

The European Commission has issued a warning notice to the Government that regulations to ease restrictions on advertising of services by barristers and other regulated professionals should be introduced without further delay.

The commission has been pursuing Ireland since 2013 over the restrictions, which it alleges breach a European directive easing restrictions on commercial communications.

In a communication in the last week to a complainant about the restrictions, seen by The Irish Times, a commission official said it was the commission’s view that regulations implementing the provisions of section 218 of the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015 “should be introduced as a matter of urgency to ensure compliance with EU law of Irish regulations on the matter of advertising by lawyers”.

He said it was “of particular concern” that the current 2018-2020 action plan of the new Legal Services Regulatory Authority “does not appear to prioritise” the introduction of the regulations.


Eight of the 11-member authority are qualified lawyers.

The official said the commission had in recent days issued a notice – known as a reasoned opinion – to Ireland regarding the continuing restrictions.

Court proceedings

The State has two months to reply to the arguments raised in that notice.

If the commission regards the Government’s response as unsatisfactory, it could take proceedings against the State in the European Court of Justice.

The notice was among various infringement decisions issued in January concerning 27 member states to ensure the proper implementation of EU rules on services and professional qualifications.

The commission’s infringement proceedings against Ireland related to an alleged breach of the 2006 directive on services in the internal market, which was transposed into Irish law in late 2010.

The alleged breach relates to article 24 of the directive and the prohibition on commercial communications by barristers.

Article 24 provides that member states “shall remove all total prohibitions on commercial communications by the regulated professions”.

Legal costs

The Kings Inns, which controls the entry of barristers into the legal system, changed its code of conduct last June and has said it believes the new code complies with the 2015 Act.

The alterations require barristers to comply with section 218 of the Act, which provides the regulatory authority may make regulations concerning the advertising of legal services.

Until regulations are introduced, advertising by barristers is restricted by their regulatory body, the Bar of Ireland.

Barristers who are members of the Bar may only place certain information about themselves on its website.

Critics of the restrictions say easing them and permitting the public to get direct access to barristers could mean substantial reductions in legal costs.

The Law Society imposes restrictions on advertising by solicitors under 2002 regulations, including concerning personal injury advertising, but considers itself to have a more "liberal" regime than that operated by the Bar of Ireland.

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times