Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Bar Council to crack down on law firm websites and advertisement - Legally India.com

The Bar Council of Delhi has decided to frame a draft proposal to more stringently regulate law firms to prevent flouting of Bar Council of India (BCI) and Advocates Act rules and to strictly enforce the advertisement ban and publicity rules governing law firm websites.

Ex-chairman and member of the Delhi Bar Council Ved Prakash Sharma told Legally India: "The Bar Council has not yet framed any draft, but there is a proposal to regulate.

He said the council has felt the need to frame more rules and guidelines because when rules were framed under the Bar Council of India there were not many law firms in existence compared to the number of law firms functioning today.

"Now, we have so many of them and there are so many complaints against them, particularly about violations of certain rules of the Bar Council of India about advertisement, publicity, etc which is not permitted in our rules," he explained. 

"Therefore, we want to regulate their functioning. This demand [to regulate law firms] was made in the last Council also, but since we have settled down now and the new council has taken over we definitely propose to do it."

Sharma noted that the Bar Council of Delhi was competent to frame such rules and send them for approval to the BCI in this regard.

"We will put up the resolution in front of the whole house and we will discuss and decide the issue thereafter," he added.

He emphasised that there have been specific concerns about law firms indulging in publicity and advertising their functioning and expertise.

"Legal work imparted by an advocate can’t be glorified in that sense," argued Sharma. "If the intention is to attract more and more work and use it for commercial purposes or professional enhancement, it is not permitted."

Sharma also stated that law firms carrying publicity material on their websites was not permitted. "Regulation only allows them to mention if they are involved in civil, criminal or corporate field or some other area."

However, he clarified that media reporting of the outcome of cases or of deals and the person who had conducted or acted on matters was permitted.

Sharma first made the statements at a function hosted by FoxMandal Little at its Noida office to welcome the newly elected Delhi Bar Council last Friday (26 March).

FoxMandal Delhi managing partner Som Mandal confirmed to Legally India that the issue was discussed at the function and that lawyers would have to comply with any regulations passed by the Bar Council of India. "The Bar Council has all the rights to do whatever it likes, within the ambits of rules that they have," he said.

It is understood that the issue of the entry of foreign firms was also raised at the Noida function, although Sharma said that the Delhi Bar Council continued to oppose legal market liberalisation without legal practice reciprocity in other jurisdictions.

In 2008 the Bar Council of India had clarified the existing no-advertising rules to allow law firms to have websites. 

The amendment allowed "advocates furnishing website information as prescribed in the Schedule under intimation to and as approved by the Bar Council of India". The list in the schedule permits little more on lawyers' websites than contact details, qualifications and areas of specialisation of advocates.

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