Touting and advertisement is prohibited under the Legal Profession (Professional Conduct and etiquette) Rules, 1969, L.I. 613 and the Code of Ethics of the Ghana Bar Association passed pursuant to section 7(2) (b) and 15 of the Professional Bodies Registration Decree, 1973 (NRCD 143).
Rule 2 of L.I. 613 provides as follows:
“Rule 2—Advertising Touting and Publicity.
(1) A lawyer shall not directly or indirectly apply for or seek instructions for professional business, or do or permit in the carrying on of his practice any act or thing which can reasonably be regarded as touting or advertising or as calculated to attract business unfairly.
(2) It is the duty of every lawyer at all times to uphold the dignity and high standing of his profession and his own dignity and high standing as a member of it.
(3) It is contrary to professional etiquette for a lawyer to do or cause or allow to be done anything for the purpose of touting directly or indirectly, or which is calculated to suggest that it is done for that purpose.
(4) While a lawyer is entitled to such personal advertisement as is a necessary consequence of the proper exercise of his profession, or of any act otherwise properly done by him, it is contrary to professional etiquette for a lawyer to do or cause or allow to be done anything with the primary motive of personal advertisement or anything calculated to suggest that it is so motivated.”
Rule 6 of the GBA Code of Ethics provides:
- A lawyer commits misconduct if –
(a) he does or causes or allows to be done anything with the primary motive of personal advertisement or anything calculated to suggest that it is so motivated; or
(b) he publishes, circulates or knowingly permits to be published or circulated anything in the nature of an advertisement of his or his firm’s services otherwise than in a legal directory, legal journal or other legal publication.
- The rule does not prevent the use of simple visiting cards stating the name, address, and academic or other lawful qualifications of a lawyer.”
While these rules generally prohibit advertisement, they also make provision for exceptions or circumstances under which lawyers may be permitted to advertise. These are:
(a) Personal advertisement as is a necessary consequence of the proper exercise of his profession
(b) Advertisement in a legal directory, legal journal or other legal publication.
(c) Use of simple visiting cards stating the name, address, and academic or other lawful qualifications of a lawyer.
These rules were passed between 1969 and 1973 and at a time when there was no internet so no reference was made to it. With the upsurge of the internet in the 1990’s methods of communication the world over has changed for easy and instant access to information on the spot. Hard copies of documents are changing to electronic versions and many law libraries are converting from manual to electronic libraries. The search for information and especially the profiles of lawyers all over the world is now done electronically on the internet and no longer through hard copies of legal directories, journals or publications, letters fax or telephone. Some few legal firms have gone ahead to place their profiles on the internet while the majority are waiting for directions from the regulators of the Legal Profession, The General Legal Council.
It is against this emerging trend in Information Technology the world over that the Ghana Bar Association adopted the International Bar Association guidelines on websites and proposed to the General Legal Council, the regulatory body for the Legal Profession to permit lawyers and law firms to create websites and place their profiles on the internet using the guidelines below.
1. An intended internet profile, must include the following:
(a) The full name of the legal firm or lawyer.
(b) The location address and postal address.
(c) The particulars of telephone contacts.
(d) The email address
(e) The passport pictures of the partners, associates and juniors.
(f) The history of the firm.
(g) The profile and areas of practice of the firm and or individual members of the firm.
2. The firm or lawyer may subject to the approval of their clients list the names of former and current clients in the profile.
3. Firms and lawyers cannot add phrases, adjectives and description such as “best”, “expert” among other such phrases.
4. Firms cannot add statements which are inaccurate or likely to mislead, diminish public confidence in the legal profession, the administration of justice or otherwise bring the legal profession into disrepute.
5. Firms cannot criticize other legal firms or lawyers.
6. Firms cannot put out statements about their success rate.
7. Firms cannot put statements which are obtrusive as to cause annoyance to those to whom it is directed.
8. A portal will be opened at the GBA website for firms who want to put in their profile at a discounted rate to do so through the GBA. Individual firms will also be permitted to create their own websites.
9. For the avoidance of doubt, social media is not website.
10. The breach of these guidelines to internet profiles would amount to misconduct.
ADOPTED BY THE GENERAL LEGAL COUNCIL ON 5TH JULY 2013