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05 July 2017

General Legal Council’s advertising restrictions on lawyers challenged at Supreme Court

A private citizen has turned to the Supreme Court to challenge the guidelines by the General Legal Council (GLC) that bars lawyers from touting and advertisement.

Emmanuel Korsi Senyo wants the apex court’s declaration that the Council’s guidelines on how Lawyers can create websites and place their profiles on the internet violate the 1992 Constitution if aspects of the rules guiding the legal profession are not amended.

Among other things, Mr Senyo wants a “declaration that the Defendant’s [General Legal Council] notice placed on its website on the 12 of June, 2017 with the heading “Guidelines for Lawyers to Create Websites & Place Their Profile on the Internet”, seeking to allow some form of advertising by lawyers without amending or revoking Rule 2 of the Legal Profession (Professional Conduct and Etiquette) Rules, 1969 (LI 613) is in violation of Articles 11(7), 23, 296(a) and (b) and 297(d) of the 1992 Constitution.”

The Rule Mr Senyo refers to is titled “Advertising Touting and Publicity” and stipulates the following:.

“(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.”

The move by Emmanuel Korsi Senyo comes at a time when prominent human rights lawyer, Francis-Xavier Sosu, is fighting to reverse a two-year ban hand him by the legal profession regulator for touting and advertising.

Read: Appeals court adjourns Francis Sosu suspension case

Xavier Sosu

Francis-Xavier Sosu

Following the ban on Mr Sosu, there have been calls for the GLC to water down its outmoded restrictions on advertising for members of the legal profession.

Founding President of think tank, IMANI Centre for Policy and Education, Franklin Cudjoe, has said the strict regulation barring lawyers from advertising has had many negative effects on members of the profession.

“I now understand why many lawyers in Ghana try to insert themselves into politically charged cases so they get noticed by the public. The reason is that, lawyers I’m told don’t have to advertise their trade. Is this sensible?” Mr Cudjoe had said in a Facebook post.

Franklin Cudjoe

Franklin Cudjoe

Below are the three reliefs Mr Senyo is seeking in his suit at the Supreme Court.

1. A declaration that the Defendant’s notice placed on its website on the 12 of June, 2017 with the heading “Guidelines for Lawyers to Create Websites & Place Their Profile on the Internet”, seeking to allow some form of advertising by lawyers without amending or revoking Rule 2 of the Legal Profession (Professional Conduct and Etiquette) Rules, 1969 (LI 613) is in violation of Articles 11(7), 23, 296(a) and (b) and 297(d) of the 1992 Constitution.

2. A declaration that the Notice containing “Guidelines for Lawyers to Create Websites & Place Their Profile on the Internet” is null and void as same is in violation of Articles 11(7), 23, 296(a) and (b) and 297(d) of the 1992 Constitution.

3. Any other order(s) that this Honourable Court may deem fit to make.

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