Ban on advertisement of legal services undermines access to justice – Law Professor

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Law

Restrictions on the advertisement of legal services undermine access to justice, Professor Richard Frimpong Oppong, Professor of Law at the California Western School of Law, San Diego, USA, has said.

He said the ban on solicitation of clients as well as general advertisement by lawyers and law firms kept the public from being informed of the importance and availability of legal services.

Delivering the 55th J.B. Danquah Memorial Lectures organised by the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences (GAAS) in Accra on Monday, February 21, 2022, Prof. Oppong urged the Ghana Bar Association (GBA) and the General Legal Council (GLC) to revisit the ban on advertisement of legal services and adopt a regime that would enhance access to justice.

He said though the restrictions were justified in their quest to safeguard the dignity of the legal profession, it prevented people from finding affordable legal help easily to address the issues confronting them.

“Access to justice suffers where lawyers cannot directly or freely speak to the general public about the legal services that they provide or the legal options that are available in response to problems confronting the general public.

“…The recognition that a lawyer is required to solve a particular problem is an important part of justice delivery. In that sense, advertising serves is an educational function. Social and other digital media can be powerful channels for such outreaches,” Prof. Oppong said.

It would be sufficient to regulate advertisement that “misleads the public or diminishes” public confidence in the legal profession and administration of justice and any solicitation that involved coercion, duress of harassment, he added.

Prof. Oppong, therefore, urged the GBA to take advantage of advertisement and use it to engage in public education campaigns about legal rights and avenues for seeking justice.

He also urged the Government to invest in technologies that were aimed at making justice more accessible to the public.

He advocated for the establishment of a single or unified national legal portal with a supporting application (app), providing access to Ghanaian laws, judicial decisions, and relevant information on access to justice.

“Funding for this national portal should come from the Government and the GBA. A potential source of funding for such investments can be the interests that accrue on funds that clients deposit with lawyers when lawyers are providing them with legal services,” Prof. Oppong said.

The J. B. Danquah Memorial Lecture Series was instituted in 1968 in memory of a foundation member of the GAAS, Dr Joseph Boakye Danquah, who died in prison in February 1965.

Dr Danquah was a member of the “Big Six” who led the struggle for Ghana’s independence but was arrested and imprisoned three times; first by the colonial government in 1948 and twice by Dr Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’ first President, in 1961 and 1964.

Since 1968, the lectures had been a constant feature of the Academy’s activities.

This year’s three-day lecture is on the theme: “Digitalisation and the future of the Ghana Legal System.”

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