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Bar associations and attorney advertising service continues dispute, now at the Constitutional Court Updated: 2021-06-09 10:07:40 KST

There are many ways to hire an attorney, but for first timers it's a complicated and even risky process.

"I go online and look for cases that they've won. It's tiring and complicated."

"I look for them through friends and family or my school alumni."

One method seems to make it easier.

" We used an app and decided by looking at the comment sections and stuff. Also, they said pre-consulting would be free."

The service this couple used, LawTalk, enables attorneys to advertise themselves on a single platform so that consumers can compare them and choose the one they believe to be the best.
But the Korean Bar Association says the service goes against the Attorney-at-Law Act and it amended the Bar Association rules last month to penalize any lawyer who still uses this service or similar ones in August.

"The problem is that they say it's just advertising, but the company emphasizes its brand even more. That means it's not just an advertising company, but a law firm."

Before this twice in the past seven years the attorney's associations have filed complaints, but the South Korean prosecutors' office found that they had no case.
This time around, with the amendment of the bar association rules, it was the company that decided to bring the issue to the Constitutional Court last week.

"Many attorneys on LawTalk said this is violating their right to work and freedom of speech and will retaliate aggressively. We promised to help these lawyers by bringing this up to the Constitutional Court."

The bar association questions whether a platform that links clients and attorneys is necessary, and once the platform is big enough and can control the market, consumers are going to be the ones who will suffer.
And they say the legal system itself could be put at risk.

"Law is an area too important to be simply evaluated in terms of consumer convenience. It's linked to our country's judicial order and system as well as our legislative system which ultimately is where we as citizens get our basic rights."

LawTalk, however, says it not only helps people find more options when hiring an attorney, but also gives hard-to-find opportunities to younger, low-profile attorneys.
More than 75 percent of the attorneys advertising on the platform have been in the profession for less than ten years giving them more opportunities to pick up cases they want.

"All this created by LawTalk led to the popularization of legal services, which I believe contributes to creating a society where everyone is equal before the law."

Advertising always has been a sensitive issue in the legal industry because of the asymmetry of information between the two parties.
But with a steep increase in the number of lawyers due to start of law school in 2009 it became a means of survival for many.

"I think it would be better for the associations to watch the ads that come up closely, and hold individuals responsible rather than closing down platforms."

The goal for both groups is to make sure that people who need lawyers get the best attorney for their case.
But how to achieve that and how to determine which attorneys are the best is a different matter.
Kim Do-yeon, Arirang News.
Reporter : tkim@arirang.com
KOGL : Korea Open Government License
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