Bar Council suspends new rule requiring law firms to get approval for logos

Salim previously explained the new requirement to get the Bar Council's approval for law firms' logos was introduced to harmonise two conflicting rules. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Salim previously explained the new requirement to get the Bar Council's approval for law firms' logos was introduced to harmonise two conflicting rules. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, May 6 — The Bar Council has suspended its requirement for all law firms in Peninsular Malaysia to get its approval before using their logos, slightly less than two weeks after introducing the new rule.

The Bar Council, which is the regulating body of the Malaysian Bar, yesterday issued a circular to inform the Malaysian Bar members of the immediate suspension of this rule.

"Pursuant to section 57(a) of the Legal Profession Act 1976, Bar Council has suspended Ruling 3.05 of the Rules and Rulings of the Bar Council until further notice.

"Bar Council Ruling 3.05: Logo, elaborate or decorated script or style permitted - The use of any logo, insignia, seal of the firm and any elaborate or decorated script or style on a law firm’s letterhead and stationery in a manner which is unobtrusive and not incompatible with the dignity of the legal profession is permitted, subject to the approval of the Bar Council."

"The suspension of Ruling 3.05 takes effect immediately," the Bar Council said in its circular signed off by the Malaysian Bar secretary A G Kalidas.

The Bar Council did not state the reason for the suspension in the circular, but said it would contact law firms that have already submitted their applications to the Bar Council for approval.

Previously on April 24, the Bar Council had issued a circular to announce its amendment to Ruling 3.05 by adding the words "subject to the approval of the Bar Council" and said it was effective immediately, which meant that law firms then were immediately required to get the Bar Council's approval for their logos.

In the previous April 24 circular, the Bar Council said the approval of logos will be guided by several factors, including the disallowing of logos that could bring the legal profession into disrepute, disallowing of slogans, phrases, images of animals or human figures in logos, also adding that “words indicating that the logo belongs to a law firm — such as ‘Advocates & Solicitors’, ‘Law Firm’ and ‘Advocates’ — should not be part of the logo”.

A quick check by Malay Mail showed that the term “Advocates & Solicitors” — which to layman means lawyer — is a common feature in logos of many law firms including some well-established law firms, while there are also law firms that do not use the phrase in their logos.

When contacted after the April 24 circular, lawyers who spoke to Malay Mail questioned the Bar Council’s priorities and the timing of the new ruling amid the movement control order (MCO) with more pressing economic and operational concerns for law firms, details of the new ruling such as the disallowing of the use of “Advocates & Solicitors” in law firms’ logos, and how it would effectively place the Bar Council in a bureaucratic role of giving out approvals instead of self-regulation by law firms.

Malaysian Bar president Salim Bashir Bhaskaran previously told Malay Mail however that the new requirement was made on March 7 before the MCO, but also confirmed that the Bar Council could always revisit its rulings if it is considered to be the prudent and wise thing to do.

Salim also previously explained the new requirement to get the Bar Council's approval for law firms' logos was introduced to harmonise two conflicting rules, confirming that it applied to both existing and new logos of law firms, while also explaining why the phrase "Advocates & Solicitors" was not allowed.

The numbers of those that would have been affected by the April 24 ruling could potentially be high depending on how common the practice of using logos is among law firms, with the Malaysian Bar's statistics as at March 31, 2020 showing that there are 19,817 lawyers in Peninsular Malaysia and the federal territories.

As at March 31, 2020, the Malaysian Bar’s statistics show that 5,498 of its members' law firms are legal practices with one to five lawyers each, while there are 713 law firms with six to 30 lawyers each, and 33 law firms with more than 30 lawyers each.

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