The Law Society of England and Wales has welcomed what it has described as an “historic decision” by the Bar Council of India (BCI) that could open up the country’s legal-services market to foreign lawyers.
Announcing that the “time has come to take a call on the issue”, the BCI has published rules allowing foreign lawyers and firms to practise foreign law in the country “on a reciprocity basis”.
“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 non-litigious matters, and international arbitration cases would go a long way in helping the legal profession to grow in India, to the benefit of lawyers in India too,” the BCI stated.
The Law Society Gazette of England and Wales says that the move follows years of campaigning by the Law Society of England and Wales.
Its president Lubna Shuja said: ’We were pleased to meet and discuss this issue with the Bar Council of India (BCI) and the Law Secretary of India recently.
“The Bar Council of India’s decision is a significant step forward in this long-standing issue, and will create huge opportunities for solicitors and Indian advocates in both countries. It will also give a boost to India’s wider economic ambitions.”
Signs of change
The Gazette says that India has long held out as one of the last major global economies to restrict legal practice to its own citizens.
The UK Department for International Trade reported in 2021 that legal services was second only to rail-freight transport in the extent to which it was closed to non-Indian businesses.
Law Society initiatives to open the market date back at least to 2010, but the Gazette states that signs of a change have emerged in recent years.
In 2018, the Indian Supreme Court ruled in favour of foreign firms offering ’fly-in’ services. Last year, global firm Dentons announced the first combination between a foreign and Indian firm.