The Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) has slammed the suggestion of NSW Attorney-General John Hatzistergos that other states should follow the NSW and Queensland lead on banning personal-injury lawyers advertising their services.
The ban on such advertising began in NSW and Queensland in 2005 and covers compensation lawyers working in "no win, no fee" arrangements. Earlier this week, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that Hatzistergos would encourage other states and territories to follow the NSW and Queensland lead at the meeting of the state attorney-generals later this week.
But according to NSW ALA president Jnana Gumbert, it would be a mistake for other states to follow the NSW and Queensland ban.
"Rather than punishing the so called 'ambulance-chasing lawyers', the ban on advertising punishes the injured, as it prevents them from learning about their rights to recover compensation," Gumbert said in a statement to Lawyers Weekly. "The ban should be repealed."
Bruce Simmonds, a Queensland-based personal injury lawyer and partner of Parker Simmonds Solicitors, recently argued in Lawyers Weekly that Queensland lawyers are at an unfair disadvantage because they are restricted by advertising bans, while similar law firms in other states are not.
Simmonds wrote that even though Queensland's personal injury advertising restrictions extend to internet websites, they still do not cover interstate firms. He says that as a consequence, "law firms in Victoria which operate aggressively in Queensland, can tout for 'no win, no fee' business via their websites".
Gumbert stated that having advertising bans on personal injury lawyers at all was "inconsistent" and "irrational" - noting that no such ban applied to other areas of law such as family, wills and criminal law.
She added that with Legal Aid operating on an underfunded basis, some accident victims could afford legal assistance only if lawyers were prepared to represent them on a 'no win, no fee' basis. "Rather than demonising personal injury lawyers, it would be a pleasant change if the Attorney-General occasionally extended some thanks to the personal injury lawyers," added Gumbert. "They provide a valuable community service that the Government no longer supplies."