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BCI chair Gopal Subramaniam interview (part 2): Foreign firms only once Indian lawyers 'reclaim business'

Solicitor  General - Gopal Subramanium (KIIT)
Solicitor General - Gopal Subramanium (KIIT)

The Bar Council of India (BCI) has been pivotal in the debate on the entry of foreign law firms. The Solicitor general and newly elected BCI chairman Gopal Subramaniam tells Legally India about what has to happen before foreign lawyers can practice here.

Legally India (LI): What is your take on the entry of foreign lawyers in India?
Gopal Subramaniam (GS): I think the issues are a little more complex and they may have a bearing on our democracy. Now, if say the entry of the foreign lawyers is necessary because of their expertise to deal with commercial matters, we have no less [expertise].

We are going to work on improving our skills and making sure that we are the best. And in fact what we have to do is really reclaim the business, which has even gone out of India, which we have lost out to other jurisdiction on account of adverse publicity of the Indian legal system.

And I say this very consciously that the Indian lawyer has to reclaim his business which has gone out. I think we need to first get it back. We need to be on a level playing field.

The second thing is the element of reciprocity - I think this is very important unless there is reciprocity there is no question of any further consideration.

LI: What do you mean by reciprocity? Many Indian lawyers are practicing abroad.
GS: Indian lawyers do not practice there because they are Indian lawyers. They practice there when they qualify to practice there under their rules. Reciprocity means if I allow you to practice here then you allow me to practice there.

But having said that let us understand how many actually can go and establish a law office in New York or London? See the kind of expenses which are involved for setting up the office there.

So we must understand that there are many issues which will have to be internally debated. Therefore I must say that at this juncture our profession has to be first looked upon.

Our legal community will be looked upon as an important resource base. We have to preserve the Indian lawyer - if we don’t preserve the Indian lawyer, it can have telling implications on the democracy.

Anything else can be considered later but at this stage I think the task before us is reorganising ourselves as capable, efficient lawyers at all levels.

I am talking about every lawyer in the trial court as fellow brethren, I am talking at all levels in all places. You have to bring about uniformity. You have to bring about high quality.        

LI: In simple words, you are not in favour of the entry of foreign lawyers?
GS: At this stage I am not in favour of entering of foreign lawyers. This is without any doubt.

This interview is the second part of a longer interview with Subramaniam. The first part addressed legal education.

Photo from KIIT

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