A report prepared by Hammurabi & Solomon, the Indian National Bar Association (INBA) and Medhaadvisors, on the draft Bar Council of India (BCI) Rules for Registration and Regulation of Foreign Lawyers in India, 2016, has been presented to the Ministry of Law.
The 87-page report was submitted to the law secretary, Suresh Chandra, on 30 August and to the joint secretary of the Ministry of Commerce, Sudhanshu Pandey, on 31 August. It examines global best practices followed in other jurisdictions including the US, the UK, Singapore, Brazil, South Africa, South Korea, Japan, Russia, China, Malaysia and Indonesia.
According to Manoj Kumar, the founder of Hammurabi & Solomon, reforms in the legal services sector should focus on the ease of doing business. He emphasized that every stakeholder would be impacted differently by the reforms and that they needed to be addressed carefully.
INBA’s secretary general, Kaviraj Singh, said that the Indian legal market would see a tangible increase in work opportunities if foreign lawyers were permitted to practise in India through collaborations with local law firms. He added that a greater shift of legal process outsourcing to India would also add value to the market.
The report recommends a phased entry of foreign lawyers and law firms. The first phase would be to allow foreign lawyers to practise in the areas covered in the draft BCI rules by the end of the current financial year (31 March 2017).
The second phase would see the reform of laws such as the Advocates Act, 1961, and the Limited Liability Partnership Act, 2008, which would allow a firm to expand its partnership, remove restrictions on advertising and foster reforms in the education sector to ensure a deeper talent pool in the legal profession. The final phase would involve policy changes to permit foreign lawyers to practise law in India by forming joint ventures and collaborating with Indian lawyers. It would also entail framing policies and setting up a disciplinary body to regulate foreign law practice.
Kumar told Asia Business Law Journal’s sister publication, India Business Law Journal, that the Ministry of Law was likely to discuss the report at a meeting with stakeholders in mid-September. “The draft rules need further amendments on issues concerning various stakeholders,” he said. “The government … should [consider] the impact on all stakeholders holistically and within the purview of [its] agenda of economic reforms and ease of doing business in India. It is also pertinent for the government to understand various principles and guidelines adopted by other countries.”