On June 15, 2015, the Italian Competition Authority (Antitrust Authority) clarified that lawyers are allowed to use any website – being it managed by the lawyer himself or by third parties – to promote their services in Italy. Based on this decision, Italian lawyers should finally be able promote their legal services on social networks like, for example, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Antitrust Authority’s decision no. 25487.
The Authority held – among other findings – that lawyers qualify as commercial entities for the purpose of application of the antitrust legislation. Also, the Authority held that bar associations are “associations of commercial entities” and their rules of conduct fall within the scope of article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union which safeguards free competition in the EU market.
Accordingly, Section 35 of the Italian Rules of Professional Conduct cannot prohibit lawyers to use websites managed by third parties to publish information relating to their area of practice and professional services. Section 35 – the Antitrust held – “limits the use of an advertising and informational means through which the public is also informed of the economic convenience of the professional service”. In the past, the Authority had already censored (decision n. 25154) as violating the free competition rule of Section 101, the Italian bar association’s prohibition of lawyers’ use of third parties’ websites to advertise their services. The rational of the decision is that by limiting the competition among professionals, the bar association ends up damaging consumers.
On June 17, 2015, the Administrative Court of Lazio (TAR Lazio) affirmed the Italian Competition Authority’s decision no. 25487, ruling against the Italian bar association’s prohibition of lawyers’ use of third parties website to advertise their practice. According to the Court, third parties’ websites where lawyers can post about their professional services must be considered as spaces in paper publications where the legal professionals can advertise its offer.
More information on section 35, Italian Rules of Professional Conduct, is available at http://www.altalex.com…
For more information, Francesca Giannoni-Crystal