Saturday, May 8, 2010

Indian lawyers to be officially allowed to host websites

Law-in-Perspective: Indian lawyers to be officially allowed to host websites

This news comes as a real treat for the Indian legal arena. The regulatory watchdog of the legal professional in India, the Bar Council of India, has finally conceded to do away with the archaic provision in the Bar Council of India regulations applicable on all lawyers practicing in India, which prohibits them from advertising about their services and profession. As the Hindustan Times report (click on the picture to read) the Bar Council, considering the futility of its earlier argument (that legal profession is not a trade and therefore does not require advertisement) decided to do away with the contentious Rule 36 (I very well remember half of my Legal Ethics classmates making their projects on this very Rule comparing India with other jurisdictions on the issue).

The Rule in contention has to be understood in the context of the independence era where most freedom fighters were lawyers and law was a noble profession, depending more on virtue and skill and contingent on human performance rather than a bunch of non-litigating lawyers sitting in air-conditioned chambers and transacting business for unknown client. The times have changed and so have the people engaged in the profession. Its more of now who hosts a bigger chamber, who hires more associates each year, who has got more turnover, who gets listed in Lex Mundi, and then the ranking of Global500,; the cut-throat competition amongst the law firms really determining the direction and growth of the legal profession in today's India. So the ground rules should change as well. No wonder this petition was filed to do away with the moratorium of hosting websites (not that few law firms were not hosting it already violating the spirit of the provision) and thus to attract client from abroad and give a technological boost to the profession. I am sure this allowance for law firms to advertise (it really sound silly as to why it has not been done away with long back with other skill based professions like CA, doctors, etc. already being allowed to keep websites) will come a long way in reinvigorating the legal profession in India.

It seems that the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) route has really turned out well for the social activists (and like minded folks) to get addressed glaring lacunae in laws and get them remedied. No doubt the valiant provision has led to some private interest clashes being brought within fold of this public law domain (like the BACLO disinvestment case, BCCI-Zee tussle case, etc.) but then it has indeed addressed a number of critical issues. The ongoing tussle between the Union and People for Equality on the issue of reservation in educational institutions is in fact the most recent example of how PILs have been successful in giving the grieved and unheard a right to get their views addressed, which really is a requirement of democracy. It would not be an exaggeration to call PILs as acting the valve of the pressure cooker, making way for a cooling space for minority and agitated views in this democratic nation. Then the recent organization of Common Law Admission Test for aspiring law students also shows the saving of wasteful public expenditure by just having one joint examination for most law schools. Indeed a beautiful attempt of a pro-active judiciary coming to terms with the need of this growing and vibrant democracy.

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