Government very keen on green light for foreign law firms to increase competitionGovernment very keen on green light for foreign law firms to increase competition

The law and commerce ministries, including law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, met with a number of stakeholders of the Indian legal profession today, paving the way for the first stage of allowing foreign law firms to set up shop in India.

At the meeting, the government told the Bar Council of India (BCI) to prepare draft amendments within four weeks to allow lawyers to advertise and market themselves, in order to allay concerns of some promoters domestic law firms that they would be unable to compete with foreign firms.

According to several people present at the meeting, the commerce ministry secretary told the assembled lawyers in a meeting lasting several hours that prime minister Narendra Modi wanted foreign law firms to enter India as a top priority and that Indian lawyers were competent enough and ready to face the competition, which would considerably grow the legal services sector.

The first stage would be allowing foreign law firms to set up shop in special economic zones (SEZs) such as the Gujarat Financial Tech City (GIFT), where they could advise domestic and foreign clients on non-Indian laws as well as represent clients in arbitrations.

Furthermore, the ministry told the BCI to prepare draft amendments to the Advocates Act and BCI Rules within four weeks, with an eye on a so-called leveling of the playing field of Indian law firms vis-a-vis foreign ones.

The BCI’s proposed amendments should allow Indian law firms to advertise and market their services, including the setting up of proper websites.

After allowing foreign firms into SEZs, the government would consider the second phase and what exact shape that should take.

Stakeholders

The Society of Indian Law Firms (Silf) lobby group was represented by Lalit Bhasin and lawyers from several member firms, such as Cyril and Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas, AZB & Partners, Luthra & Luthra, J Sagar Associates (JSA) and others.

The Indian National Bar Association (INBA) was headed by secretary Kaviraj Singh.

After the commerce ministry made its pitch for around 20 minutes, Bhasin made arguments again for an entry of foreign law firms in stages, and that the government should neither allow foreign law firms to practice Indian law nor hire Indian lawyers.

Other members of the Silf delegations, such as Luthra & Luthra senior partner Mohit Saraf, mostly concurred with Bhasin's point.

However, TechLegis founding partner Salman Waris appearing as part of the INBA delegation, said that foreign firms in any case already employed Indian lawyers, working in places such as New York or Singapore and that such restriction from employing Indian lawyers for when they set up within India would be arbitrary.

Kaviraj Singh also emphasised that foreign law firms should be allowed to hire Indian lawyers if setting up in India.

Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad added that some regulation of Indian and foreign law firms was required, however. The currently most popular idea in previous discussions was that the BCI should regulate both. Currently, the BCI only regulates individual advocates but not law firms.

The ministries gave lawyers two weeks to submit their comments and suggestions for the proposed way forward.

The last to speak at the meeting was BCI chairman Manan Kumar Mishra, who said that the BCI had already made submissions to the ministry and would recommend further steps, though he claimed his hands were also somewhat tied by the demands of local bar associations and state bar councils.

We have reached out to Bhasin for comment.

The BCI was represented by BCI chairman Manan Kumar Mishra.

The Bar Association of India was represented by president-elect Prashant Kumar, who told Bar & Bench today: “We want to have a phased liberalisation of profession like the approach adopted in Singapore. Foreign lawyers should be only allowed to advise on their own laws and there should also be restriction on employing Indian lawyers on them. In the second phase by the time Indian legal profession has the benefit of change in regulations here, the other steps in terms of allowing foreign law firms to employ Indian lawyers can be allowed.”

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1
Like +27 Object -1 Guest 29 Jul 17, 01:57  interesting  top rated
Why were only a few oligarchs invited? Why not in-house counsels? Why not eminent counsels and jurists who have supported liberalisation? Why not law schools? Why aren't comments being sought from the public?

I urge Legally India to air other voices. Maybe if you had done so before this would not have happened.
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1.1
Like +16 Object -1 Guest 29 Jul 17, 11:13  interesting  top rated
were you expecting anything else from this monopolistic and protectionist cabal? They are trying tooth and nail to prevent this from happening or at worst make it technically difficult to implement.. its a fight for survival of their hundreds of crore income each year!!
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2
Like +9 Object -0 Guest 29 Jul 17, 02:29  interesting
Someone with vested interest and scared of competition comes up with such ideas -
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Like +9 Object -71 Concerned Lawyer 29 Jul 17, 03:21  troll?  controversial
I support the proposal by Shri Lalit Bhasin and SILF to block foreign law firms from hiring Indians. If foreign law firms are allowed to hire Indians they will pay high salaries to youngsters and spoil them. These days even fresh graduates are becoming very arrogant and unsatisfied with even 20,000 a month starting salary. What will we do if foreign law firms offer high salaries and hire graduates from good colleges? Does the government want us to hire from third-class law colleges?
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3.1
Like +37 Object -0 ElCid 29 Jul 17, 08:34  interesting  top rated
This is exactly why most lawyers are not able to live their dreams.

Just because senior lawyers of the present day got less money when they started out is no reason that the new generation must be trapped to get money less than what they deserve.
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Like +0 Object -0 Guest 09 Aug 17, 20:20
And how much do you "deserve"?
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3.2
Like +35 Object -1 Chanawala 29 Jul 17, 10:34  interesting  top rated
If you want to pay peanuts, you can recruit from the zoo instead.
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3.3
Like +4 Object -0 Mr. X 29 Jul 17, 12:29
I think you forgot to put /s
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3.4
Like +18 Object -0 Keep your peanuts 29 Jul 17, 23:49  interesting  top rated
Wow, you actually said that out loud on a public forum? Your comment shows what, not all, but most senior lawyers think. This is exactly why foreign firms need to come in asap. At least they have value for talent. Young Indian lawyers are over-worked and underpaid.
Sir - with all due respect - the fresh graduates need to pay their bills. They are not your bonded labour. Do you even understand how expensive life is in a big city like Mumbai, Delhi or Bangalore? I sure hope that graduates from top colleges are not falling prey to pay-masters like you.
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Like +3 Object -1 No non-sense 30 Jul 17, 15:49
Well said!
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3.5
Like +4 Object -0 Batman of h.c 30 Jul 17, 15:13
Spoil? What we deserve good living. While you all just pay fraction of you fees to us and make ur work like your driver Ramu! Reputed foreign firms will treat us like assets.

Let us decide
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Like +1 Object -2 Baburao 03 Aug 17, 02:43
LOL. While they'll pay you more, don't live under the delusion that they'll treat you any better than any Indian law firm. Just google lawyer depression in the U.S. and you'll know.
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3.6
Like +8 Object -0 No non-sense 30 Jul 17, 15:49  interesting
And who are you to judge. If you want top talent then be ready to pay top buck. Why should bright lawyers feed into your coffers???
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3.7
Like +5 Object -1 am 4 30 Jul 17, 17:31
If you support Mr Bhasin's ideas just because you think young lawyers will make more money, I think you are missing the point. Entry of foreign law firm will ofcourse increase the competition and they may pick lawyers from Indian law firms but at the same time they will bring in
- new practice areas
- culture of training young lawyers
- increased salaries (which is important for the fact that majority of Indian lawyers are either under employed or unemployed)
- India might become hub for large international transactions and arbitration,

Over all it's good for young lawyers. Please think long term perspective and without biases. Foreign law firms are good for India !
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4
Like +11 Object -0 Guest 29 Jul 17, 11:11  interesting
The demand of not employing Indian lawyers is ridiculously amazing and gives away the true face of Indian law firm owners!! I do not know how this can be legally or morally justified. Every Indian lawyer is free to provide services to ANY person. Any justification for this ban is nothing more than an argument in support for bonded labour.

On another note, looks like this time it is for real. I have been hearing rumours around the managing partners getting into an overdrive mode to face the oncoming Independence Day for Indian lawyers..
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4.1
Like +4 Object -0 No non-sense 30 Jul 17, 15:50
This is just hipocracy on part of SILF. Shame on you SILF.
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Like +0 Object -0 guest2 31 Jul 17, 10:27
Can you learn to spell right first?
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Like +6 Object -0 Guest 29 Jul 17, 15:44  interesting
The student body associations of the national law universities should get together and draft a petition supporting liberalisation and linking it to employment and jobs for the youth. This can have a huge impact and add balance to the debate, which has henceforth been dominated by SILF and BCI (and stupid Kian does not highlight other views).
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Like +0 Object -0 Guest 29 Jul 17, 15:51
Here are clips from an interesting seminar on liberalisation:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L59ytlU4G6E

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eULGbOTALPc
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Like +23 Object -0 Bold 29 Jul 17, 16:27  interesting  top rated
It's really funny how MS keeps talking about upping our game during the townhall meetings but does the exact opposite when his and his firm's existence is being challenged. Senior partners of firms like his are having sleepless nights about losing business to foreign firms. L and L is already facing heat from the Indian tier - 1 firms. God only knows what will happen when foreign firms enter India. I guess sensible thing for their management would be to sell the business and spend their time at their farm houses.
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Like +5 Object -1 Sahil C 29 Jul 17, 20:38
Mr Lalit

why are you opposing and denying the students a job with dignity. Even lawyers with law firm supporting you are in favour of allowing foreign law firms.
How you people can be so self centred and against the national interest. Lalit you are (...), anti national and (...) with no (...) . (...)
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8.1
Like +6 Object -0 No non-sense 30 Jul 17, 15:52  interesting
Mr Lalit and his fellow bunch of 'statesmen' have proved that they are self centered and have nothing to do with betterment of the profession.
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9
Like +7 Object -1 Guest 30 Jul 17, 15:30  interesting
Kian I request you to write an article (preferably in MSM like Mint) highlighting the many pro-liberalisation voices. I cannot understand why you have given so much coverage to Lalit Bhasin and Manan Mishra. Are they the only stakeholders? You are skewing the debate.
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Like +1 Object -1 ZJM? 30 Jul 17, 20:57
Maybe now a certain tier 1 firm will pay its long overdue bonus!!! No prizes for guessing.
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Like +0 Object -0 Query 02 Aug 17, 08:23
Which firm is this?
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Like +0 Object -4 Guest2 31 Jul 17, 00:58
Has the opposition from CAM been noted? Heard they were the most vocal at the last meeting against ILCs entry, along with PLC law..

had some very good points, e.g imbalance in work allocation, orders from foreign MPs, independence issues, too much focus on systems processes which indian GCs don't want at this stage
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12
Like +9 Object -0 Wtf 31 Jul 17, 12:54  interesting
Some comments like 'foreign law firms should not be allowed to employ Indian lawyers' are unabashedly self-serving and expose the Indian law firm promoters as the true Janus.

Does any so called association, representing lawyers, have the balls to call a referendum of registered Indian lawyers on this point?

Seriously, who are they truly representing? High time that Indian law firms accept the foregone conclusion, tidy up their homes and up their game rather than block entry of foreign law firms in such veiled and not-so-subtle ways!

Ostriches, aren't we??
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Like +2 Object -0 Guest 31 Jul 17, 17:25
It is very disappointing that the so-called stakeholders invited were SILF and BCI but not GCs, young lawyers, students and educationists like Prof Menon and Prof Ranbir Singh (who have supported liberalisation).

Someone needs to get the word out in the media that young lawyers and law student support liberalisation and it will lead to more jobs.
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Like +2 Object -0 hmm 01 Aug 17, 20:57
i really expected better comments or at least a bit more interesting. Cant understand why anyone would oppose the entry. If someone has decent goss to share re this issue please let us know
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Like +2 Object -0 Gift to GNLU 05 Aug 17, 15:26
GIFT City being a stone's throw away from GNLU is going to ensure jobs in GNLU
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Like +4 Object -0 EyeOpener 09 Aug 17, 16:55
SILF: 'Selfish indian law firms' supported and financed by AZB, CAM, JSA, Khaitan, Luthra, SAM et. all. Once this nexus is understood, everything that they do is crystal clear. To stop liberalization of legal services by hook or by crook (pun intended!). Modi Government does not have the guts to annoy the mighty and greedy indian law firms.
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