“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. It will allow firms to include a variety of information on their websites. Since 2008, law firms in India were permitted to have websites. But only according to advertising restrictions imposed by the bar. It specified the allowance of only contact information, areas of specialisation, and qualifications.”
“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. Still, some lawyers hope the lifted rules 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 coming change in rules related to lawyer websites. It states: “Can we expect to see Indian law firms engage fully in 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. These are 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. Still, everyone would be better served if we knew more about the richness and variety in the Indian legal market.”
Pearson noticed that: “Some of the more adventurous Indian law firms have used foreign-based publications and directories as a way of advertising themselves to expected clients and standard partners. However, some firms literally interpret Bar Council of India’s restrictions who have played it safe. As a result, they have chosen not to display or engage with Western-owned legal publishers. All in all, 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 audiences with websites and social media activity such as blogging. The lawyers and law firms in India will open themselves up to many new opportunities. They will serve both clients domestically as well as internationally. Time will tell about the nature and extent of the changes to come for India’s lawyers and their online engagement.