Immaterialgüter- und Wettbewerbsrecht

Lawyers’ Advertisement and Competition Law: How to Balance the Conflict between the Professional Codes of Conduct and the Liberations?

The research will seek to explain whether and to what extent the restrictions set out by the National Bar associations could be considered as proportionate and reasonable limitations to competition in the legal services’ market because they are designed to achieve legitimate public policy objectives.

Last Update: 14.09.16

The research will try to strike a balance between different kinds of remarkable interests characterizing lawyers’ market, like deontological and professional ethics objectives, on the one hand, and other competition policy goals like consumer welfare, on the other hand. Indeed, competition policy has never been only about economics (that is economic efficiency and consumer welfare), but also about social justice, democratic development and constitutional values.
Specifically, lawyers’ codes of conduct often include provisions on the decorum and the dignity of the profession, which in the European Commission’s view could be at odds with the liberalisation of lawyers’ advertisement, which loosens also the rules on the objects and the forms of advertisement. However, the ECJ in Wouters clearly stated that the National Bar associations enjoy a margin of discretion in order to establish what has to be considered appropriate and necessary to protect the proper practice of the profession, in light of their respective national legal frameworks and of the prevailing perceptions of the profession in their respective Member State.
Thus, the research will also consist into determining the boundaries of the deontological and professional ethics objectives in the lawyers’ advertisement field. These deontological limitations are often aimed at protecting the proper practice of the legal profession as organized in the respective Member States in order to ensure that the ultimate consumers of legal services and the sound administration of justice will be provided with the necessary guarantees in relation to the integrity and experience of the lawyers offering the needed service on the market. In other words, the research will try to understand and justify whether and to what extent should be possible to introduce into the provisions of Article 101(1) TFEU considerations that are linked to the pursuit of additional public-interest objectives.
To conclude, in the legal services market, the economic goals of regulation cannot be limited to the supply of the most efficient quantity of legal services or to the supply of legal services at the lowest possible price. However, in general, competition law in the liberal professional field has also to focus on another parameter of competition, which is the quality of the service. In particular, in the legal services market, it is crucial the need to allow clients to consciously choose a good quality lawyer having the right degree of integrity and experience in order to guarantee the consumers proper access to justice. In other words, in assessing potentially anticompetitive conducts in the legal services market, competition law enforcers should also take into account the impact of such conducts on other several constitutional interests such as the right of defence, in the lawyers’ market. Thus, following a broader and more complete approach, these public policy goals and interests are not alien to competition law and policy and can fully be integrated in a dynamic and evolutionary concept of competition.


Doctoral Student

Jacopo de Luca


Dr. Filipe Fischmann

Doctoral Supervisor

Prof. Federico Ghezzi

Main Areas of Research