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As the debate on opening India’s gates to foreign law firms shifts from ‘if’ to ‘how’, important lessons may be drawn from other Asian jurisdictions that have implemented similar reforms, Ben Frumin reports from New Delhi

The debate over whether India should open its legal market has raged in recent months. Opponents and supporters have stated their cases forcefully in this magazine, as have other stakeholders such as corporate counsel at Indian and international businesses.

As the debate intensifies, the focus is shifting from “whether” India should open its doors to foreign lawyers to the equally divisive question of “how” it might be done. Indeed, in a letter published in the September issue of India Business Law Journal, Lalit Bhasin, president of the Society of Indian Law Firms and managing partner of Delhi-based law firm Bhasin & Co argued that “the doors will not open … [because] no one knows how to open the doors”.

Fortunately, if and when India does permit foreign law firms to establish themselves on its soil, it will be following a path well trodden by many of its Asian neighbours. It therefore has several contrasting approaches to consider and the opportunity to evaluate the impact of each model on the overall quality of legal services as well as the consequences of each approach for domestic law firms.

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