By - King Stubb & Kasiva on April 27, 2023
In simpler terms, advertising refers to the act of promoting and publicizing a product, service, or innovation to increase its recognition among the target audience. However, in India, the law prohibits advocates and lawyers from advertising their work, which means that any legal services offered by them cannot be advertised.
The Bar Council of India, as per Section 49(1) of the Advocates Act, 1961, has the authority to establish rules and regulations to fulfill its functions under the Act. The Indian Bar Council has framed Bar Council Rules which cover various aspects such as the procedure for electing members, advocates' professional ethics, duties to be followed by advocates, and the classification of people to be enrolled as advocates.
The ban on advertising legal services by legal practitioners in India is a concept derived from the UK, where the legal profession is considered noble, and commercializing it through promotions is viewed as dishonorable and may result in unfair practices. In India, this ban on advertising legal services is highlighted in the Bar Council Rules, specifically Rule 36, which restricts advocates from advertising their services.
Rule 36 of the Bar Council Rules states the following –
"An advocate is prohibited from soliciting work or advertising, either directly or indirectly, whether by circulars, advertisements, touts, personal communications, interviews not warranted by personal relations, furnishing inspiring newspaper comments or producing his photographs to be published in connection with cases in which he has been engaged or concerned. Even the signboard, nameplate or stationery of an advocate should not indicate that he is or has been the President or Member of a Bar Council or of any Association or that he has been associated with any person or organisation or with any particular cause or matter or that he specialises in any particular type of work or that he has been a Judge or an Advocate General."
An advocate/lawyer in India who disregards Rule 36 of the Bar Council Rules and advertises their work, can be held liable for professional misconduct and can be prosecuted under Section 35 of the Advocates Act, 1961.
The reason behind the prohibition of advertisements for legal services is elaborated in Rule 36 of the Bar Council Rules, which is in line with the Advocates Act, 1961. This rule restricts advocates from advertising or soliciting their work or engaging in any related activities.
In India, the legal profession is highly respected and considered noble, as legal practitioners work towards providing justice and serve a social cause. The nature of legal services is benevolent, and advertising by lawyers is not deemed honorable.
The reasons behind the prohibition of lawyers’ advertising are as follows: -
The Bar Council of India made an amendment to Rule 36 of the Bar Council Rules in 2008 to liberalize the strict ban on lawyer advertising. Earlier, lawyers/advocates were strictly prohibited from advertising their legal services, and any violation of this rule would result in punishment. However, the amendment now allows advocates/lawyers to showcase their basic information such as their name, contact details, qualifications, and areas of practice on their websites, subject to the provision of a disclaimer. The disclaimer must clearly state that the information furnished on the website is true and genuine.
It is important to note that the amendment only permits the advertising of specific information by advocates. If an advocate provides any extra information beyond what is allowed, they can be held liable for professional misconduct under Section 35 of the Advocates Act, 1961, and can be punished accordingly.
The justification behind prohibiting Indian Lawyers advertising their work is highlighted through various precedents. There have been contrasting views regarding the validity of Rule 36 of the BCI and the question of what can be considered as advertising of legal services.
Globally, there are differing opinions regarding the advertising of legal services. Previously, there was a complete ban on the advertising of legal services, but over time, certain countries have accepted and encouraged it.
Singapore and European Union countries promote the advertising of legal services. For instance, European Union countries permit lawyers to inform the public of the services they offer through advertisements, on the condition that the advertisements are genuine and accurate.
However, countries like the United States and United Kingdom only allow lawyers to advertise their services to a limited extent and with certain terms and conditions. For example, the importance of advertising legal services was recognized in the US through the landmark judgment of Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, where it was observed that legal service advertising benefits consumers. Rule 7 of Model Rules of Professional Conduct, 1983 of the American Bar Association disallows misleading advertisements. Currently, lawyers in the US are allowed to advertise their services, but they are not permitted to promote their work on a personal level with the aim of making money.
In conclusion, regulated advertising can potentially contribute to maintaining the dignity of the legal profession, as long as it is carried out in accordance with the law. Rather than an outright ban or limiting it to certain websites, legitimate advertising should be allowed across all platforms and media. It is important to establish effective standards and laws to regulate and monitor advertising in various media. Furthermore, advocates who provide inaccurate information or make false promises to their clients should be subject to strict penalties.
According to Rule 36 of the Bar Council Rules, lawyers are prohibited from advertising their services. However, after an amendment in 2008, lawyers are allowed to display basic information such as their name, contact information, qualifications, and email address on their websites. It is essential to note that this information must be accompanied by a disclaimer stating that the information provided is accurate. If a lawyer provides additional information beyond what is permitted, they may be held accountable under Section 35 of the Advocates Act, 1961, and face disciplinary action for professional misconduct.
The restriction on advertising legal services by Indian lawyers is in place to prevent the commercialization of the legal profession, to deter the use of unethical methods, to prevent legal disparity, and to avoid misleading the public.
The 2008 amendment to Rule 36 of the BCI Rules permits advocates/lawyers to display their basic information such as their name, contact details, email address, qualifications, etc., on their websites. However, the amendment mandates the inclusion of a disclaimer along with the displayed information. The disclaimer must state that the information provided on the website is authentic and accurate, and must be provided by the advocate/lawyer.
AIR 1967 Mad. 35,https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1258072/
AIR 1929 Bombay 335, https://vlex.in/vid/government-pleader-vs-s-572111058
(1995) 5 SCC 139, https://main.sci.gov.in/jonew/judis/10667.pdf
 WP(C) 532 of 2000, https://indiankanoon.org/doc/499519/
King Stubb & Kasiva,
Advocates & Attorneys
Click Here to Get in Touch
New Delhi | Mumbai | Bangalore | Chennai | Hyderabad | Mangalore | Pune | Kochi | Kolkata
Tel: +91 11 41032969 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org