We all know that the Advocates Act, 1961 had barred the Indian Advocates from making any kind of advertisement in any kind of media whether it be newspapers, internet, banners, etc.
After the Second World War the International Economic Order which emerged, encouraged Free Trade in goods. India was a founder signatory to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) since 1947, which led to the formation of WTO, on 1st January 1995. This has led to a whole wide debate in India over the stringent laws governing code of ethics and morality of Legal Professionals on one hand and the WTO laws on the other hand. This has come in due to the phenomenon of globalization developing world over. This debate revolves around major issues pertaining to the objectives of legal profession, consumerism, social justice, Indian commitment to WTO regime, competition law etc. Some professionals argue that the shift in trade nature of legal services shall hamper ‘professional ethics’ and concept of ‘justice to all’. Some others say that the regulations imposed on the legal services sector are anti-competitive and contrary to the goals and purpose of competition policy and Competition Act, 2002. But in all Advocates were not allowed to Advertise.
The BCI have said earlier that the legal profession was not a trade and hence, advocates could not be permitted to advertise their services.
The Indian Express Newspaper, published an article on their website on New Delhi, July 28, 00:43 hrs, regarding the new decision of Bar Council of India for letting the Advocates to advertise on the internet.
The Newspaper has been noticed to claim that the Bar Council of India [BCI] told that a three-member bench of the Supreme Court headed by Justice B N Aggarwal that it has decided to let advocates advertise on the internet.
Mr.V B Joshi had filed a petition challenging the Rule 36, Section IV of BCI rules, which stops Indian Advocates from advertising their services in public in the Supreme Court. The bench was hearing to the said petition. The BCI had made amendment in the above said rule, thereby allowing the Indian Advocates to Advertise their legal services in the website of their choice. This amendment allows advocates to mention their names, telephone numbers, e-mail IDs and professional and educational qualifications on the websites of their choice.
Justice S H Kapadia who was part of this three member bench perusing the amended notification, made a suggestion that Advocates may also add their area of specialization and number of years of experience to their profile on the website.
However, BCI said that the advertisement published should be within the fixed parameters and should abide the new rules and regulations. Any breach of the rules would be taken as professional misconduct. It also said that the Western standards cannot be applied to India Legal fraternity as that would lead to unbalance in the Indian Legal System. You can have a look at the new set of rules framed by BCI regarding, advocates advertisement on website, 2008.
According to a recent article on the Wall Street Journal, the US Lawyers are highest bidders on Google AdSense (an online advertising system by Google), with “Asbestos attorney” going for $51.68, “Oakland personal injury lawyer” going for $58.03 and “Mesothelioma attorney Texas” fetching a record $65.21 per click! This shows that there is a vibrant market for advertising by lawyers in the US.
We have noticed on law related websites across internet like this one, that ads have started appearing from Indian advocates, lawyers, attorneys and law firms. We can’t say for sure whether they are taking the advantage of this new regulation through advertising themselves, as after all, ads do matter.