Lawyers yet to take up sale of services via ads
Posted Saturday, July 21 2012 at 15:48
Four months after the High Court lifted a ban on advertising for legal services, lawyers are yet to take up the initiative.
The majority of senior advocates think that lifting the ban was wrong in the first place since lawyers do not need to advertise their services but are judged by the number of cases they are involved in, especially the ones they win.
Even the sponsors of the petition, lawyers Okeyo Omwanza and Ndegwa Njiru, have not begun to advertise their services.
“When people know that you are a good lawyer, they will come to you without your necessarily advertising in the media. Lawyers are judged by the character of their work, and the advertising is done by clients who are satisfied by the work,” said lawyer Ian Maina.
Mr Justice David Majanja declared in March that Rule 2 of the Advocates Act was unconstitutional, effectively allowing lawyers to advertise their services in newspapers, on television, radio or any other form of media.
The rule stipulated that no advocate may directly or indirectly seek instructions for professional business through any act which may be regarded as advertising or calculated to attract business unfairly.
The Law Society of Kenya opposed the ruling and has filed an appeal that is pending at the Court of Appeal.
According to LSK chairman Eric Mutua, the council, which is the governing body, interpreted the judgment to mean that only total ban on advertising was unconstitutional.
“The decision does not warrant that you take out full-page advertising in a newspaper but just to let your clients know the existence of your services,” said Mr Mutua.
While the appeal against lifting of the ban is pending, the LSK has developed a code of conduct for lawyers who wish to advertise in the media.
Mr Mutua said the council has drawn up some guidelines for advertising standards for legal practitioners that they will forward to the Attorney-General for gazetting next month.
Medium-sized law firms immediately opposed Judge Majanja’s ruling, claiming they would be edged out of business by established law firms that could afford to mount vigorous advertising campaigns.
The LSK chairman said the fears raised by the medium-sized law firms are among the issues the council has addressed in their proposed guidelines.
Constitutional lawyer Anthony Oluoch argued that the judgment would entrench a monopoly of a few monied law firms at the expense of sole proprietors or medium-sized law firms that may not be able to afford advertising.
He warned that those in need of legal aid would face the real danger of getting a raw deal by choosing an advocate just because they saw an advert in the media.
“Clients will be misled with enticing wordings of the adverts and end up losing their money for inadequate services. The ruling will demean the legal profession and put it just like any other calling without ethics,” Mr Oluoch said.
Mr Steve Athuok, a partner at Ibrahim, Issack and Company Advocates said that a good lawyer should not need to go for media advertising to be known.