Indian legal bodies clash over liberalisation plans

india-flag2-Article-201607070633The Indian Corporate Counsel Association (ICCA) is planning a series of meetings to help rescue attempts to open up India’s legal market to international firms.

The body has proposed an eight-week series of meetings to help get the plans back on track after the  Bar Council of India (BCI) withdrew its support for its own draft proposals, issued during the summer, that would allow foreign firms and lawyers to operate in India. The market is currently closed to international legal services providers.

The ICCA has now sent a letter to all state bar councils, the BCI, the Society of Indian Law Firms (Silf), the Indian National Bar Association and others, requesting the meetings to discuss issues around liberalisation.

The move comes after the BCI backtracked on its support for allowing foreign lawyers into India, citing – among other reasons – opposition from state bar councils.

The draft rules proposed allowing foreign lawyers to set up offices in India to do non-Indian law transactional work, enter into a partnership with an Indian law firm and hire local lawyers, as well as allowing foreign lawyers to work for a domestic firm.

According to Legally India, the BCI issued a six-page letter detailing its reasons for changing its position.

The letter also argued that discussions should not take place before the Supreme Court hands down its verdict in the case of Bar Council of India v. AK Balaji & Ors, which will decide if foreign firms have the right to practise in the country.

Earlier this year, Silf voiced opposition to the BCI’s draft proposals. President of the Society, Lalit Bhasin, told Legal Week that Silf takes issue with the lack of domestic liberalisation – allowing firms to form LLPs and advertise – prior to the introduction of foreign firms to the market.