india law reform - international legal practice

india law reform opens the way to international legal practice

Has the Law Reform in India opened the way to international legal practice as was initiated in Eastern and Central Europe in the early 1990’s

The recent changes in the Bar regulations in India, while criticised to an extent as being rather vague or unclear, may have finally unlocked what is probably the last great market for international legal practice. They are the Bar Council of India Rules for Registration and Regulation of Foreign Lawyers and Foreign Law Firms in India, 2022 (BCI Rules) to enable international lawyers and arbitration practitioners to advise in India.

Although circumscribed particularly by a restriction on international lawyers practising Indian local law themselves or appearing for advocacy it does not appear to restrict international law firms from working in co-operation with local lawyers on transactional business.

When the Bar rules were relaxed across Central and Eastern Europe in the early 1990’s many international law firms were quick to set up under their brand local law firms in co-operation with local law lawyers.

The same seems to be possible effectively under the new rules - indeed at least one “combination” of an international law firm and a local Indian law firm has been announced.

Various groupings of Indian lawyers who were apparently not consulted in the change process have raised objectives to the changes on various grounds but is seems unlikely that the main framework of the changes will be varied significantly.

Looking at the changes that have been made in principle it appears that international law firms may now set up what are effectively local law firms by registering as foreign lawyers and working with local lawyers in an actual firm using the provisions of the changed regulation.

India of course is a federation of states so that while some majors may stick to the capital there is evidently considerable scope to set up a “chain” of offices throughout the various states given the propensity of various state capitals to market their particular state for commerce.
Law firms who set up in Central and Eastern Europe which opened firms across the various countries benefited substantially from this particularly given the propensity of major international companies to appoint one individual to cover the region. The result across India is likely to be the same.

The prospects for international law firms therefore look good but don’t send your marketing genius to “open” your local office. Even under the changes “cold call” marketing is still not permitted under Bar rules – on the other hand joining and fraternising with local Chambers of Commerce probably isn’t.

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