Legal profession in India opens up for foreign lawyers and law firms | India News

NEW DELHI: The Bar Council of India, the apex regulating body of legal profession, has decided to allow foreign lawyers and law firms to practice law in the country in the field of foreign law and international issues in nonlitigious matters, marking the first step towards liberalizing and opening up of legal profession in the country for overseas players.
The Council notified ‘Rules for Registration and Regulation of Foreign Lawyers and Foreign Law Firms in India’ to allow entry of foreign lawyers and law firms in “a restricted and well controlled and regulated manner on the principle of reciprocity” which means that lawyers of only those foreign countries would be allowed to operate which permits Indian Lawyers to practice law there.
The scope of operation for foreign lawyers will be limited as they are allowed to practice not in Indian Laws but only in the field of foreign laws and international issues in nonlitigious matters and they would not be allowed to appear before courts, tribunals and any other statutory or regulatory bodies to argue the case like Indian lawyers. Though their practice would be confined to transactional work /corporate work such as joint ventures, mergers and acquisitions, intellectual property matters, drafting of contracts, providing legal advice to their clients, arbitration proceedings etc, the decision paved the pay for their entry in the country in the legal field which had been barred for them despite many other sectors were opened up for foreign players over the years.
Their entry will also infuse more professionalism in the sector and there is also a large market for them to tap within the limited scope given to them because large number of foreign companies operating in the country and many more are lined up to invest.
Justifying its decision to allow them to operate in the country, the Council said that world is becoming a global village and “legal profession in India has to rise to the occasion to meet the global changes in the legal arena caused by migration of people from one country to other on such a large scale that had not been witnessed in earlier days”.
It said the rules will address the concerns expressed about flow of Foreign Direct Investment in the country and also making India a hub of International Commercial Arbitration. The council said that the Indian lawyers are well trained and equipped to meet the challenge to be posed by their foreign counterparts.
“International trade and commerce is advancing at a great pace. The demand for an open, responsive and receptive legal professional dispensation mechanism in India from clients/public who operate in international and cross-country business is becoming severe day by day. Growth in international legal work sphere and globalization of legal practice and internationalization of the law is increasingly becoming relevant to the growth of the legal profession and practices in India,” it said.
“Bar Council of India is of the view that opening up of law practice in India to foreign lawyers in the field of practice of foreign law; diverse international legal issues in nonlitigious matters and in international arbitration cases would go a long way in helping legal profession/domain grow in India to the benefit of lawyers in India too. It is noteworthy that the standards of Indian lawyers in proficiency in law is comparable with the international standards and the legal fraternity in India is not likely to suffer any disadvantage…..,” it said.
The Rules also spelled out detailed procedure to be adopted for registration of foreign lawyers, renewal and circumstances under which it can be cancelled. “In case, we sleep over the matter, the legal fraternity of India may be left behind in providing legal/professional expertise in accordance to the rule of law in a manner consistent with the best interests of this fast growing class of clients in India. Let us ensure than an opportunity for creating development and growth for legal profession and in the legal sphere in India is not lost,” the council said.

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