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Legal, accountancy firms look for nod to advertise

07-February-2005
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Legal, accountancy firms look for nod to advertise

Legal and accountancy professionals may win you a near-impossible case or solve your tax problems, but when it comes to convincing their apex regulators on adopting a more flexible approach towards the code of ethics, these professionals are finding the going tough. Their professional code of conduct does not allow them to `advertise' even in professional journals, or set up a Web site, or talk about themselves by way of circulars and brochures.

This is so, when countries worldwide have relaxed regulations over the last few years, accountancy professionals point out. The absolute restriction should be reviewed in the context of the gradual opening up of professional services to international competition, said sources at the Institute of Company Secretaries of India (ICSI). Accountancy firms are slightly better off compared to legal firms, as they are allowed to set up their Web address subject to some stringent norms.

"There is a difference between `solicitation' and `advertising' to lure customers," the sources said. Solicitation will help in creating more awareness about the profession, the services offered and the achievements of the professionals.

"Dissemination of important information is what the professionals are looking for," said Mr Mukesh Butani, Partner of BMR & Associates.

What the legal community is looking for is some freedom to have their names inserted in professional magazines, host their own Web sites and print brochures that could be circulated in international conferences, Mr Lalit Bhasin, President of Society of Indian Legal Firms (SILF), told Business Line.

In fact, SILF is all set to approach the courts for remedy. SILF, formed a few years back, has been coaxing the Bar Council of India to review its stand on the issue, but not with much success.

Concurring with Mr Bhasin's view, ICSI sources said Indian professionals firms would find it difficult to compete with global firms when barriers areultimately lifted, unless a level playing field is created. Almost all reputed foreign firms are listed in professional journals, have their own Web sites and are allowed to advertise their professional qualifications, services rendered and their experience in the field.

This would require amendments to the professional acts — the Chartered Accountants Act, 1949, the Cost & Works Accountants, 1959 and the Company Secretaries Act, 1980. "The professional firms should be allowed to advertise in a manner, which is not false and misleading and which will not create false hope among clients to expect great results," they argued.

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