India’s legal market opens up for foreign lawyers

by | Mar 15, 2023

The Bar Council of India (BCI) has, recently, permitted foreign lawyers to practice foreign law in India in non-litigious matters, subject to compliance with BCI’s registration guidelines.  However, appearing in Indian courts, as also advising on real estate matters in India, has been specifically excluded.

Reciprocity is a key criteria, i.e., only if an Indian advocate is allowed to practice in the jurisdiction of the foreign lawyer, will the foreign lawyer be allowed to practice foreign law in India.  This will benefit foreign lawyers from jurisdictions like England and Wales, which has already granted reciprocity to Indian advocates.

Foreign lawyers who do not want to practice law in India under the new rules can continue to advice on a ‘fly in and fly out basis,’ provided that such a practice does not, in aggregate, exceed 60 days in any period of 12 months.

Overall, this is a step in the right direction.  Foreign investors looking to invest in India will derive more comfort if their foreign law firms are on the ground in India.  It will also open up the market for senior, dual qualified Indian lawyers, who will be able to come back to India and lead the foreign law practice initiatives for their foreign law firms.

As regards Indian law firms, there should be limited impact because foreign clients and foreign lawyers will need to take the services of Indian lawyers for, among others, Indian law transactions, opinions and litigation matters.

The BCI rules are silent on the point whether exclusive alliances are permitted between Indian law firms and foreign lawyers with each entity practicing their respective laws.  In our view, this should also be clarified.

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