This article is written by Jatin Vats. He is an intern at Legal Thirst.
Talking about India, We have more than a million lawyers enrolled with the Bar Council and the number gets additional thousand every year but neither of them has a Right to Advertise themselves nor any Law firm may practice such a right. Rule 36 of The Bar Council of India clearly states that” An advocate shall not solicit work or advertise, either directly or indirectly, whether by circulars, advertisements, touts, personal communications, interviews not warranted by personal relations, furnishing or inspiring newspaper comments or producing his photographs to be published in connection with cases in which he has been engaged or concerned. His sign-board or name-plate should be of a reasonable size. The sign-board or name-plate or stationery should not indicate that he is or has been President or Member of a Bar Council or of any Association or that he has been associated with any person or organization or with any particular cause or matter or that he specializes in any particular type of worker or that he has been a Judge or an Advocate General.”
Advertisements no doubt comes under the ambiance of Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India but unlike any other Right under Article 19 which have only some reasonable restrictions Right to Advertisement for lawyers has been completely prohibited.
Interpretation of the Rule
Rule 36 of The Bar Council clearly indicates that The Legal Profession in India has some differences in its complexion as compared to any other profession. From the ancient times, the Legal Profession has been considered “The Noblest Profession” and if the element of advertisement is allowed to enter this profession the whole essence of it would be lost as the advertisement would not only commercialize and make it a business but also the perspective of the client would also be influenced by such act. As The Bar Council passes a resolution in 2008 that amends Rule 36, now advocates are allowed to furnish information such as name, address, telephone numbers, e-mails, professional and academic qualifications, and information related to enrolment and area of practice on their websites But almost every law firm used such resolution to bypass the whole Rule 36 by playing with the technicality of the above-stated Rule, every firm has its website which formally they have published for the information purpose but in reality, they display their achievements and such information with the purpose of manipulating the perspective of any client favor of their Firm or themselves. In many cases like “Tata Yellow Pages vs MTNL” and “Dharamvir Singh vs Vinod Mahajan,” it was held by the court that freedom of speech and expression extends to commercial speech and the legal profession involves business prepositions plus advertisement comes under the definition of commercial speech. Hence, it can be stated that Rule 36 of The Bar Council does not satisfy any of the conditions mentioned in article 19 of The Constitution of India and also violates the Right to Carry on trade, business, and profession under Article 19(1)(g).
If the Lawyers are allowed to showcase their achievements through social media or their websites then it can support the ambition of common people as they now know where they are spending their hard-earned money and whether they can actually trust their lawyer or not. Also, it may benefit the first-generation lawyers in reaching their potential clients and building their contacts and market. Countries like the United States and the United Kingdom which are having huge Legal Markets have already updated themselves and stepped on from the conventional law of Prohibition of Advertisement and have given huge exposure and earning capacity to lawyers and the law firms.
The Nobility of Legal Profession and its Commercialization
As the services under the Legal Sector were started with the foremost aim to serve the society, it started gathering its nobleness. After some time it was also practiced by some people to earn their livelihood together with serving the society hence it ought to be considered a noble profession from the start as it always works for the upliftment of the society and delivery of justice. Every member of this community is considered to be the Protector of Law. Ethics, Morals, and Values are the foremost important supplements of this profession and that’s the reason that almost every Law School has the subject of Professional Ethics in its curriculum, earning a livelihood is okay but students should be reminded of the basic purpose of a person engaged in the Legal Profession that is “To serve the Society and delivery of Justice”. The main fact in the issue in front of us is that “How Could a rule which itself is Constitutionally illegitimate could help in safeguarding the nobility of a Profession?”
In the case of Government Pleader vs S.A. Pleader, an important judgment was given by the Hon’ble Court that sending a postcard with the address, name, and description of the advocate would amount to an advertisement. It was also held that in an election manifesto, lawyers are prohibited to propagate and campaign their name to collect an audience and advertise themselves.
The conventional idea of prohibition of advertisement to save the prosperity and nobility of the Legal Profession is losing its light with time which automatically is fading the golden history of the Legal Profession as people are beginning to lose their interest in this community due to commercialization and conversation this profession into business by some lawyers. The foremost duty of a professional is to deliver service but not to earn money, the lawyers are indeed regarded as the officers of the court but it does not mean that they are set free from their basic role of service to their clients or else legal administration may be subject to Consumer Protection Act 1986.
In today’s world of marketing and advertising, The Bar Council has seized the right of Indian Lawyers to advertise themselves under the influence of this so-called theory of nobility of the Legal Profession. It should always be kept in mind that advertising has million other benefits to society against the bad effect that it influences the perspective of a client. Many countries in the world have already lifted the ban on this conventional rule of not advertising the legal profession. It’s the time for the Bar Council to understand that it’s the right of every litigant to get a platform where he can find the most suitable lawyer which his pocket allows for getting out the best value from his money. In today’s era of Liberalisation Privatisation and globalization Lawyers should compete at the International level and secure international clients but this shield of Rule 36 is coming in way of that ambition. This rule is neither good for the Lawyers nor the Clients but the also Bar Council of India can’t see any durable justification for revoking this hindrance of the rule.
Also see: Jungle Justice: The New Justice Swing in Modern World
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