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BCI's marathon meeting: Ethics rules, oath by this year; Foreign law firms, LLP to be raised in Oct


he Bar Council of India's (BCI) ambitious weekend meeting decided to introduce draft lawyers' ethics guidelines in two days and how to begin decreasing the number of law colleges in India. But due to time constraints the body had to postpone its decision on the entry of foreign law firms in respect of the Chennai writ petition, as well as Trilegal's queries about converting to a limited liability partnership (LLP).

The BCI met in Delhi on Saturday and Sunday (21 and 22 August) with a long list of points that new BCI chairman and solicitor general Gopal Subramanium (pictured) wanted to include on the agenda. All BCI Members wore ceremonial robes for the first time and took an oath in a ceremony that Subramanium said was "very moving".

Lawyers ethics

Subramanium told Legally India that the BCI passed a resolution to adopt draft rules of lawyers' ethics, which would be published on its website for comments with a hope to adopt them at the next meeting of the regulatory body on 2 October.

He explained that the draft ethics rules were similar to South Africa's lawyers' ethics rules (the General Council of the Bar of South Africa's ethics rules can be downloaded here).

He also said that the BCI passed a resolution requiring all new advocates to swear an oath from December, the precise wording of which would be published soon. Advocate Elizabeth Seshadri examined such an oath in her recent Legally India Legal Opinion on the rise of the "pseudo-lawyer".

Legal education and law schools

Following on from Subramanium's hopes to reduce the number of India's law schools, as first reported by Legally India last month, the BCI chief explained that the body had decided at its meeting to begin setting out a list of criteria, on the basis of which law schools could be assessed and restructured if necessary.

Out of 913 law schools in India, Subramanium said that around 300 were "condemnable" and had been impossible for the BCI to even contact over the past months in a pilot survey, which aimed to give the BCI better view of India's legal education landscape.

However, a total of 600 colleges were contacted as part of the exercise and had promised to assist the BCI with its plans for communicating the bar exam and reforming legal education, said Subramanium, and some of those colleges had never before been contacted by the BCI.

The BCI meeting also made further progress on a common curriculum for all national law schools and would work towards completing this by December.

Foreign firms

The agenda also included formulating an official position on the issue of legal market liberalisation, as requested by the Chennai High Court in the case against 31 foreign law firms.

However, the BCI did not manage to address the issue at this meeting, Subramanium told Legally India. "We didn't have time at all and there are still many, many things to do. We have to give this a fair hearing."

The BCI would hold a meeting on 2 October 2010 to decide on the issue before the next date of a hearing in the Chennai writ petition on 5 October, said Subramanium.


Trilegal partners Anand Prasad and Sitesh Mukherjee attended the BCI meeting on Sunday to ask whether or not law firms were allowed to convert to limited liability partnerships (LLP).

However, Prasad recounted that the full presentation was postponed to another day as the BCI had "had a lot on their plate". "We will get an opportunity for a full-blown discussion later," said Prasad.

Subramanium has outlined an long list of legal education and legal regulatory reform-plans for his two-year tenure as BCI chairman.

Photo courtesy of Rainmaker

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