Committee to look into entry of foreign law firms

By agencies   |   Friday, 18 November 2005, 08:00 Hrs
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MUMBAI: Foreign lawyers and law firms would soon be setting up their offices in India if the Central government agrees to the request of the Bar Council of England & Wales.

The commerce ministry has a set up a committee to look into the pros and cons of permitting foreign law firms to compete with their counterparts in India, a paper reported.

The Supreme Court Bar Association has sent a letter to the Bar Association of Mumbai informing the latter that the government is now considering the suggestion by the foreign lawyers and bodies of lawyers for permission to practice in India. The Supreme Court Bar Association has also written a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh requesting him to look into the matter, the Economic Times reported.

Under the existing rules, foreign lawyers or foreign law firms are not allowed to practice in India, unless they become a member of the Bar Council of India, which is the statutory body monitoring the registration and practice of the lawyers. To become a member of the council one should have a degree in India

The demand from foreign lawyers is for a permission to practice in India without being a member of the Bar Council. They have instead promised to follow the Bar Council guidelines. The issue of allowing the foreign law firms to practice in the domestic market came up five years ago, and the Indian government did not approve it then, the paper said.

But with the increasing economic activity-taking place in India, the opportunities for law firms too are rising. This has prompted the foreign law firms to explore the Indian market.

Though the Bar Council of England & Wales has asked the governmentÂ’s permission to practice in India, they are not seeking permission for their lawyers to argue before the court, but only a permission to set up their law firms in this country.

At present, foreign lawyers are not interested in competing in the traditional areas in which the Indian lawyers are interested, such as criminal law. But they want to focus on areas where the money is huge, like joint ventures, acquisitions or other cross border transactions.

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