Bar Association expected to lift ban on adverts by barristers

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 January, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 January, 2009, 12:00am

Barristers could soon be allowed to advertise their services in a move some lawyers believe will be a significant step towards modernising the image of a profession often perceived as keen on maintaining archaic traditions.

The Bar Association's annual general meeting will vote on the removal of the near-blanket ban on advertising tomorrow, and is expected to pass the vote given a recent court ruling against a blanket ban on advertising by medical practitioners.

Barristers cannot even offer their business card, only make it available on request.

Should the ban be removed, the provision of simple information will be allowed, although barristers will be expected to maintain 'the dignity and high standing of the profession of barrister' according to the principles of their code of conduct.

Barristers in England and Wales are allowed to advertise and many chambers already have websites including extensive profiling of members and latest judgments. Quotations from trade magazine reviews of the chambers or the performance of particular barristers can also be found on the websites.

Legal sector lawmaker Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee said she supported the removal of the ban.

'So long as it is done in an honest and tasteful way, it is compatible with the public interest,' she said. 'The public don't want to see you tout. But they certainly expect you to provide them with sufficient information.

'Times have changed. What we have now is terribly out of date.'

Ms Ng said solicitors were allowed to set up their own websites. Given they would soon be granted rights of audience in the higher courts 'it would be foolish not to think of how to best present themselves'.

Bar council member Dennis Kwok Wing-hang said he was in favour of relaxing the ban because the public had a right to such information. However, he noted the proposal was not without opposition, since junior members of the Bar thought it might put them at a disadvantage, since they lacked resources to set up lavish websites.

'Not everyone has the experience or the long-standing reputation they can put on their websites,' he said.

The Bar is also expected to confirm the chairmanship of Russell Coleman, who also said he was in favour of the reforms.