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Maintain foreign law firm status quo: American Bar to BCI, with eye on Chennai


In a letter to BCI chairman Gopal Subramanium, American Bar Association (ABA) president N Zack urged the Bar Council of India (BCI) to maintain “status quo” when discussing the entry of foreign law firms tomorrow (29 January).

“Currently, U.S. lawyers may travel to India on an ‘in-and-out basis’ to advise their clients on non-Indian laws. That ‘status quo’ should be maintained as the Bar Council considers the broader issue of whether to allow the practice of law by foreign law firms in India,” Zack said according to the ABA Journal.

Voicing general support for the liberalisation of the Indian legal sector, Zack added: “The ABA believes that allowing such activities is critical not only for the mutual benefit of the legal practitioners in both countries, but also for fostering the vital and already close relationship between India and the United States and to promote the robust growth of trade and investments between our two countries. Allowing such activities is also essential in making India a preferred venue for international arbitration proceedings.”

He acknowledged the BCI’s mandate for adoption of rules to govern the future course of legal activity by international firms in India and expressed hope that a meaningful solution comes by soon.

“I understand that the Bar Council of India needs to evaluate fully, and adopt rules and regulations addressing, the broader issue of whether, for example, U.S. lawyers should be permitted to establish offices in India and give advice on the laws of their home countries and international law, which I hope you will adopt in the not too distant future.”

Only a few months earlier Zack had written to president Obama requesting him to press for legal reforms in India during his official visit to the country.

In December 2010 the England & Wales Law Society’s head of international Alison Hook, who had been a key figure in UK law firm’s push for liberalisation resigned from the post to launch a global legal consultancy. The Law Society’s Brussels office head Julia Bateman is the acting head of international until a permanent replacement can be recruited.

Tomorrow’s BCI members’ meeting follows this week’s latest adjournment in the Chennai writ petition against 31 foreign law firms, where the BCI’s counsel requested more time for discussions.

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