by Choo Dee Wei
Published July 21, 2015
Active users of social media would have noticed certain lawyers taking flak for the way they have conducted themselves in representing their clients.
Phrases like “publicity rules” or “conduct of an advocate and solicitor” are flying around. The term advocate and solicitor in everyday language means ‘lawyer’. For the remainder of this article, the term ‘lawyer’ shall be used (it’s easier to type one word and it sounds more relatable).
The ‘birth’ of a lawyer is akin to that of a butterfly. The Caterpillar Stage sees the law student consuming law text books, articles, legislation etc. For the law student, this takes at least 4 years. The Chrysalis Stage is the stage of pupillage (usually 9 months) where this law student is cocooned in the realities and practicalities of legal practice under the tutelage of his / her Master. The Butterfly Stage reveals itself when the law student takes wing and fly to be a lawyer by being called to the Bar as an Advocate & Solicitor aka a Lawyer through a Court Order.
This Court Order is given by a Judge and it’s pursuant to the Legal Profession Act 1976 (“the LPA”). Lawyers are birthed from the LPA. The LPA details out almost everything that relates to the legal profession and under the LPA, there are numerous Rules made which lawyers must adhere to.
As we are taking a leaf of lawyers and social media, we’ll look at the Legal Profession (Publicity) Rules 2001. There are restrictions on how lawyers are to publicise themselves. Why you may ask? The rationale of it being that the legal profession is a noble profession and it should not be bastardised by distasteful forms of publicity.
In the Publicity Rules, there is a limit to the amount of information which a lawyer can publicise which is called ‘Approved Information’. Publicise in this context means through advertisements in newspaper, journal, brochure etc. There is a list of donts when a lawyer publicises. For example:-
the lawyer shall not make any laudatory references to himself or his firm, or directly or indirectly extol the quality of the professional services provided by him or his firm;
make any direct or indirect reference to the number of cases that have been successfully taken by him or his firm; or
make comparison or criticise the charges or quality of services provided by other lawyers.
The principle that runs through the Publicity Rules, like ants crawling on a tree, is that a lawyer should not publicise:-
In a manner as will be likely to diminish public confidence in the legal profession or to otherwise bring the legal profession into disrepute; or
In a manner as may reasonably be regarded as being ostentatious, in bad taste, misleading, deceptive, inaccurate, false, sensational, intrusive, offensive or in any other way unbefitting the dignity of the legal profession.
So dear Reader, do you think the legal profession has been brought into disrepute? Have some transformed into a completely different creature?