India has recently opened up its legal sector to foreign lawyers and law firms. The entry of foreign lawyers and law firms into India was initially restricted by the Advocates Act, of 1961, which allowed only Indian citizens to practice law in India.
Legal Services Regulation Bill
However, in 2015, the Indian government introduced the Legal Services Regulation Bill, which allows foreign lawyers and law firms to set up offices in India and offer legal services.
Under the new regulations, foreign law firms and lawyers can now establish a presence in India by setting up a liaison office, a branch office, or a subsidiary office. They can also form partnerships or associations with Indian lawyers or law firms.
Foreign lawyers and law firms are permitted to provide legal advice on foreign and international law, but they are not allowed to appear in Indian courts or advise on Indian law unless they team up with Indian lawyers.
However, foreign lawyers and law firms are allowed to provide legal advice on international law and foreign law to clients in India, provided they do not practice Indian law or set up an office in India. Additionally, foreign lawyers are allowed to participate in international commercial arbitrations conducted in India.
To practice Indian law, foreign lawyers need to obtain a temporary permit from the Bar Council of India. The permit is valid for six months and can be renewed for a maximum period of five years. However, foreign lawyers cannot become members of the Bar Council of India or practice Indian law independently.
There are certain exceptions to the above rule, such as foreign lawyers being allowed to advise on foreign law for the purpose of arbitration proceedings, or being allowed to work in India as consultants or advisors on a temporary basis.
Foreign law firms can set up offices in India
The BCI has allowed foreign law firms to establish a presence in India through a registered office for the purpose of advising on international and foreign law. These offices can only advise on foreign law and cannot practice Indian law.
Permission for fly-in, fly-out basis
Foreign lawyers are allowed to visit India for short periods of time to advise clients on international or foreign law, but they cannot practice Indian law.
Restrictions on practice areas
Foreign lawyers and law firms can only advise on areas of law that are not regulated by Indian law. For example, they cannot advise on criminal or family law matters.
Registration and compliance
Foreign lawyers and law firms must register with the BCI and comply with all rules and regulations applicable to Indian lawyers and law firms.
Restrictions on hiring Indian lawyers
Foreign law firms cannot hire Indian lawyers, except for support staff such as paralegals and administrative personnel.
The entry of foreign lawyers and law firms has generated mixed reactions from the Indian legal community. Some lawyers and law firms have welcomed the move, saying it will bring in new expertise and resources and help India compete globally.
However, others have expressed concern that foreign lawyers and law firms could take away business from local lawyers and undermine the Indian legal profession.
Overall, the entry of foreign lawyers and law firms into India is expected to have a significant impact on the Indian legal sector. It remains to be seen how the new regulations will be implemented and how they will affect the Indian legal profession in the long run.