It is outrightly unlawful for a lawyer to inform the pubic of his previous successes in his professional practice with the aim of attracting briefs in the future. This is because Rule 2 of the Legal Profession (Professional Conduct and Etiquette) Rules, 1969 (LI 613) prohibits lawyers from touting, advertising or otherwise doing anything that may be seen “as calculated to attract business unfairly.”
Today, many consider the Rule as a senseless piece of legislation which is, “archaic” and “greatly inimical to the development of this country” in the sense that it “forces all lawyers to scramble for space under the wings of old and established law firms” and deprives citizens of the “right to know about the law firms available and the kinds of services they offered.”
Interestingly, while some call on the incoming Chief Justice, Her Ladyship, Justice Sophia Akuffo, to “break this old curse,” the former President of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights rather boldly announced at his vetting in Parliament how “distasteful” she finds the campaign against the rule. Clearly, if this rule would be scrapped, it definitely won’t come from the General Legal Council of which Her Ladyship would be head for the next two or so years.
But, what at all is the basis or essence of this rule? Well, one could not understand the Rule’s utility unless we wind back our minds to pre-medieval England; that is to say, the years immediately preceding 1400 AD.
A great point to approach history, they say, is to begin from the known to the unknown. Most of us are familiar with the chorister’s or the academic robe. The main difference between these robes and a lawyer’s is that the later has a stupid piece of violin-shaped cloth attached to the back of its left shoulders with a long silly strap running along the left breast down to the feet. The former robes don’t. That piece of cloth at the shoulders is cut into a pair of cute little sacks. These sacks used to be the money sack for lawyers – one for silver coins the other for gold. It’s actually called the “money bag.”
The theory behind this mysterious pair of sacks was that law practice was purely a noble selfless public service profession. It was neither for money nor for profit. Because of this, lawyers could never charge fees. In fact, it is said that “the gentlemanly barrister would not lower himself to ask clients for money.” Clients only made voluntary ex gratia donations which they surreptitiously dropped into these sacks. Remember, the pair of sacks hang loosely behind him; meaning he could not feel, know or be influenced by how much a client dropped in. Money was completely irrelevant!
Now the catch: since professional law practice for most part of its life was noble and not for profit, open competition was never a sensible thing to do, entertain let alone encourage. Therefore, it made sense to prohibit touting and advertising among lawyers. As a matter of fact, advertising or touting was as ignoble, base and unprofessional as asking clients for money. This is the only (if not the main) reason why Rule 2 exists in Ghana in 2017.
Assuming (without admitting) that this medieval reason for the Rule is still valid in this IT age, the question, however, would be: why does the General Legal Council find it noble for lawyers to now lower themselves and ask clients for money but ignoble for them to advertise their services? Perhaps, the answer to this question would never come.