While it is always wise to be conservative when promoting a law practice, Zambia’s Legal Practitioners’ Publicity Rules within the Legal Practitioners Act is flexible and gives solid guidance on the issue.
Like everything in marketing ‘content is king’ and the regulations make it clear that it should resonate with current thinking of how professional services firms are expected to promote themselves. This is regardless of the jurisdiction where they operate. In Zambia, traditionally, this promotion has been low key.
In essence, the rules now allow a firm to promote itself, provided what it claims is true, does not diminish confidence in the legal profession or reference certain prescribed details. These could be judicial appointments of partners, client information or reference to another firm's conduct. The rules are clear and apply to a firm marketing itself inside and outside Zambia.
This is positive acknowledgement of the growing ability of Zambian law firms to act on international matters and to actively pursue instruction on such matters. The rules don't place additional onerous guidance on activity deployed outside of Zambia.
To the question of where firms can choose to advertise, the rules are generous. They allow for engagement with any legal or non-legal publication, “whose appearance and contents are befitting the dignity of the legal profession" (9. (1)(b)). For a firm wanting to play it safe, advertising providers can seek direct approval to host firm marketing from the Council of the Law Society of Zambia.
One recurring theme in the rules is the necessity to retain copies of all advertisements, regardless of format, for 12 months and for these to be available for inspection by the Council. No reference is made to the preferred format for storage but firms should, probably, store digital and printed 'screen-grab' versions of all digital advertising and secure a vendor-supplied 'tear sheet' copy of a print advertisement.
Rule 15(1), helpfully, grants a decent scope for firms to post notices around news like a merger, renaming, change of address or “other matters approved, in writing, by the Council”.
Rule 15(2) grants permission for firms to post notices of vacancies. This wording seems simple but a firm should be sure that any detail within the placement does not contravene the general rules of advertising nor be placed in a location in contravention of the rules set forth in 9.(1)(b).
When it comes to accepting offers for interviews, lawyers can go ahead, but they should be mindful of not releasing unapproved information on the firm or clients as per the rules.
Specific information on the deployment of advertising through digital media (the internet and a website) is, for better or worse, rather concise and wrapped up within rule 22. Practitioners are, once again, instructed to limit any advertisement or marketing to approved information and to retain copies.
Referencing back to the idea that “content is king”, rule 23 offers clarity for practitioners on providing free legal advice - via input into an article or letter for publication. This is great news. Global law firms have been increasingly placing legal insight/opinion at the heart of their marketing strategies (with great success) in recent years and it is now clear that their Zambian counterparts can equally leverage this powerful tool in driving recognition and engagement with their firms. Lawyers should not be afraid to recognise the power of their well-informed opinions on a variety of legal developments. Firms that build a catalogue of well written and informative articles from their lawyers will outpace their competition in both client retention and driving new business - both via their own websites and hosting of such content on third party websites and magazines.
A quick note on participating as a speaker in an event. This is approved of by the rules and lawyers need not be shy in asking that their speech or presentation is circulated for promotional purposes - so long as it abides by the rules around business cards (rules 12) and pamphlets and brochures (rule 13).
Overall the flexibility now offered to Zambian firms for promotion - both inside and outside of Zambia - should be applauded and embraced. Perhaps more importantly, the rules give firms the flexibility to engage with “new” digital forms of promotion and advertisement. This includes promoting the firm, or its practitioners (and their learned commentary and insights), as well as advertising important notices about the firm.
In coming years law firms can expect to see websites set up and populated with permitted information about the firm and their lawyers but also (and more usefully) with partner-drafted insights, opinion and explanation on matters within their expertise - perhaps even video content of media interviews.
The new rules should give Zambian firms the confidence to engage with third party digital providers, like Africa Legal, to leverage the content they are now permitted to host on their own websites. To operate an effective content-lead marketing strategy is a time consuming but vital task. Engagement with already established legal media entities is an essential component in doing justice to the efforts associated with operating such a strategy and ensuring its success.
To find out how Africa Legal can help you make the most of your new marketing and advertising strategy email firstname.lastname@example.org
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