“The Bar Council of India has responded to widespread demands by announcing it is to lift restrictions on law firm websites”, according to a recent report by Melissa Lesh in The Global Legal Post.

As Lesh outlined: “The bar is planning to amend the regulation dealing with law firm advertising in March which will allow firms to include a variety of information on their websites. Since 2008, firms were permitted to have websites, but only  in accordance with advertising restrictions imposed by the bar which specified that only contact information, areas of specialisation, and qualifications were allowed.”

“Currently”, as Lesh continued, “big firms have the power to advertise through other means, such as sponsoring events, which puts smaller firms at a disadvantage.  Some lawyers hope the lifted restrictions will equalise the competition between the new firms and established ones.”

Will India’s law firms begin to promote themselves as many foreign law firms already do?

As LLoyd Pearson, London-based Legal Directories Consultant wrote in reaction to the news of India’s impending change in rules related to lawyer websites: “Can we expect to see Indian law firms engage more fully in the sort of marketing, advertising, and promotional activities like firms in most other countries?”

Pearson outlined that:  “India has 1.2 million lawyers – along with the United States, the country with the most lawyers in the world.  We know little about most Indian firms – mainly the small, elite firms that work with the leading UK and US international outfits.  Sure, many of the 1.2 million lawyers are one-man bands in small villages, but everyone would be better served if we knew more about the richness and variety on offer in the Indian legal market.”

Pearson observed that:  “Some of the more adventurous Indian law firms have used foreign-based publications and directories as a way of advertising themselves to prospective clients and referral partners. However, the Bar Council of India’s restrictions have been interpreted more literally by some firms, who have played safe and chosen not to advertise or engage with Western-owned legal publishers. The move to relax the rules on Indian law firm website advertising is welcome.”

What does the future hold for India’s lawyers, the internet, and social media?

Assuming the India Bar Council permits lawyers to fully engage their audiences with websites and social media activity such as blogging, India’s lawyers will open themselves up to many new opportunities to serve both clients domestically, as well as internationally.  Time will tell as to the nature and extent of the changes to come for India’s lawyers and their engagement online.

Posted by John Grimley

John Grimley edits and publishes Asia Law Portal and is the author of A Comprehensive Guide to the Asia-Pacific Legal Markets. He provides writing, editing, research and strategy services to the corporate and professional services sectors.

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