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Marketing vs Advertising: A Guide for Lawyers in India vis-a-vis Bar Council Rules

India is far behind other foreign jurisdictions like UAE and the United States when it comes to branding, and personal marketing. Home to 1.3 million advocates, India is a global leader when it comes to the application and jurisprudence of law- but has been slow to embrace the digital age.

Most law firm websites, especially those which are HTML based, look like they are from the stone age. Worse still, even today, 90% of law firms and advocates in India do not have a website to begin with.

This can be partly attributed to strict restrictions by the Bar Council of India on marketing and solicitation of services by lawyers- something that is frowned upon on account of the fact that law is considered a noble profession.

Rule 36, Section IV of the Bar Council of India Rules clearly state:

“In India, An Advocate shall not solicit work or advertise, except through a medium maintained by the Bar Council of India, 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/her photographs to be published in connection with cases in which he/she has been engaged or concerned.”

However, the restrictions are not all-encompassing in nature- in fact, far from it. 

Also Read:  Why You Need Your Law Firm Logo Today

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.

That being said, law firms today have grown to flaunt full-fledged websites that contain in-depth information on their practice areas, blogs, awards and recognitions, free resources, newsletters, mention of clients and so on. 

Law firms also focus on social media to engage with the community and to generate leads by sharing well-curated content. 

You must be wondering: is this not in contravention of the BCI rules? 

No.

There is a catch- law firms usually put up a disclaimer on the website before they are allowed to access the content. This means that there is no solicitation- the individual himself (or herself) is attempting to access the firm’s information of his or her own volition.

In any case, this workaround has come to be accepted through wide-spread practice. BCI has not taken any action on such websites over the last 20 years and now almost every law firm does this in India.

Also Read:  Advertisement for Lawyers & Law Firms in the Singapore: Is It Permitted?

At Ghostline Legal, we focus on services like website development, social media marketing (for Linkedin, Instagram and Facebook and other such platforms), search engine optimisation and other branding services for law firms, lawyers and legal service brands within the ambit of what is permitted by the BCI rules. We have done it for several law firms, and we would love to do it for you. 

Contact us today to know how we can help you.

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