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Meeting minutes reveal: SILF to arrange dinner with liberalisation ministers, law secretary • To build Rs 12.5 cr office with bar association

Undated photo of Silf president Lalit Bhasin with cabinet minister Arun Jaitley
Undated photo of Silf president Lalit Bhasin with cabinet minister Arun Jaitley

According to a copy of the minutes of the meeting of Society of Indian Law Firms (Silf) members on Monday, the SILF “decided to organise an interaction over dinner” with the recently re-appointed new law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, the minister of state PP Chaudhary and law secretary Suresh Chandra, who is spearheading the liberalisation talks.

The minutes, which were circulated to Silf members today, record that 30 individual Silf members were present at the meeting, and noted that:

It was decided to organise an interaction over dinner with the new Union Minister for Law & Justice, Mr. Ravi Shankar Prasad, Minister of State, Mr. P.P. Chaudhary and the Law Secretary.

The traditionally anti-foreign-lawyer-entry lobby group has since last year come out as broadly on board with liberalising the legal market to foreign law firms, after pressure from the government, though Silf continues to have disagreements over how this should be done, having in the past mooted a five-to-seven year timeline for full liberalisation.

Earlier in the week we had reported that the Monday meeting saw the group depute at least seven heads of law firms to produce a proposal for the law ministry by month end.

The now-published minutes reveal that on top of the seven founding, managing or senior partners reported by us earlier, as confirmed by our sources, the group will also include Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas senior Delhi-based partner Percy Billimoria, who recently joined from AZB & Partners, as well as Luthra & Luthra senior partner Mohit Saraf as the group’s convenor.

Four Silf office-holders are also set to attend those meetings ex-officio – Silf president Lalit Bhasin, vice-president Rajiv Luthra, secretary Rohit Kochhar and treasurer Manjula Chawla.

Also apparent from the minutes are Silf’s previously reported on criticism of the Bar Council of India (BCI) draft rules, which we had first published on 1 July – namely that the Silf would like a domestic “level playing field” first by “permitting LLPs, opening websites, permitting brochures etc” of Indian law firms, followed by a phased entry approach.

New Silf building

The minutes also record that Silf was considering constructing a new office for Rs 12.5 crores, which is to be shared by the law firm group with the Bar Association of India (BAI). Members should collect funds “expeditiously” so that the project could complete in the next 18 months.

A “building committee” of 13 partners was set up to report by 20 August 2016 how the

According to the minutes on liberalisation:

The President briefed the members regarding the meeting convened by the Ministry of Law & Justice on 5th July, 2016 at Shastri Bhawan, New Delhi to consider Draft Rules framed by Bar Council of India in connection with registration of foreign lawyers / law firms in India. The meeting was attended among others by the President and Mr. Rajiv Luthra, Senior Vice President of SILF. On behalf of SILF it was conveyed to the worthy Law Secretary who was chairing the meeting that the Draft Rules are not consistent with the presentation made by SILF and by the Department of Commerce, Government of India during the Inter Ministerial Group Meeting held under the Chairmanship of the Commerce Secretary in January, 2015. The point of view of SILF and Department of Commerce was duly reflected in the minutes of the Inter Ministerial Group Meeting circulated by Department of Commerce. The President handed over copies of the said two documents to the Law Secretary.

It was pointed out to the Law Secretary that the Draft Rules could have serious implications for the law firms in India as these rules among other things open the door for foreign law firms to engage and enter into arrangements with Indian lawyers. Phase-1 has been given a complete go by. In this phase there was to be internal liberalisation of the profession such as permitting LLPs, opening websites, permitting brochures etc. The stand of SILF was duly supported by Department of Commerce in the meeting.

A large number of SILF members had desired that we should take time to make a full proper and detailed presentation on this vital issue. Accordingly, we requested the Law Secretary to give SILF four weeks’ time so that the presentation as aforesaid can be prepared and shared with the Ministry. The Law Secretary was gracious enough to allow the request and he also suggested that SILF should examine whether the proposed Draft Rules would require amendment of the law. The meeting was held in a very cordial atmosphere.

There was deep appreciation of the strong stand taken by SILF in the meeting with the Law Secretary and various suggestions / inputs were given. In order to expedite the preparation of a proper and detailed presentation to be made in the next meeting to be convened by the Ministry, it was decided to constitute a Committee which should prepare the draft recommendations to be placed before the SILF members meeting to be held in the first week of August, 2016. The Committee would constitute of the following :

Mr. Lakshmikumaran - Chair

Mr. Jyoti Sagar - Co-Chair

Mr. Shardul Shroff

Mr. Cyril Shroff

Ms. Zia Mody

Mr. Nishith Desai

Mr. Haigreve Khaitan

Mr. Percy Billimoria

Mr. Mohit Saraf - Convenor

Ex Officio Members

Mr. Lalit Bhasin, President

Mr. Rajiv Luthra, Senior Vice President

Mr. Rohit Kochhar, Secretary

Ms. Manjula Chawla, Treasurer

SILF full meeting minutes (PDF)

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