NEW DELHI: In a major decision, the Bar Council of India has permitted foreign lawyers and law firms to practice in the country, in a restricted and well controlled and regulated manner on the principle of reciprocity.
The move is termed as mutually beneficial for lawyers from India.
The BCI has notified the Bar Council of India Rules for Registration and Regulation of Foreign Lawyers and Foreign Law Firms in India, 2022 to enable international lawyers and arbitration practitioners to advise in India.
As per the rules, foreign lawyers and law firms will be entitled to practice only in non-litigious matters. The three broad areas which have been opened up for them include foreign law, arbitration matters, and international legal issues.
The BCI, a statutory body, stated opening up of law practice in India to foreign lawyers in the field of practice of foreign law; diverse international legal issues in non-litigious matters and in international arbitration cases would go a long way in helping legal profession/domain grow in India to the benefit of lawyers in India too.
“It is noteworthy that the standards of Indian lawyers in proficiency in law is comparable with the international standards and the legal fraternity in India is not likely to suffer any disadvantage in case law practice in India is opened up to foreign lawyers in a restricted and well controlled and regulated manner on the principle of reciprocity as it would be mutually beneficial for lawyers from India and abroad and these Rules are an attempt by Bar Council of India in this direction,” it said.
Foreign lawyers or firms would not be able to practice in India without registration with the BCI, and the registration fee for a foreign lawyer is US Dollor 25,000, and for a law firm it is US Dollor 50,000.
“The registration done under rule 7 shall be valid for a period of 5 (five) years only and the foreign lawyer and/or Law Firm would be required to renew it by filing an application for renewal in Form B within 6 months before the date on which such validity expires,” the BCI said in gazette notification.
It further added, “These rules will also help to address the concerns expressed about flow of Foreign Direct Investment in the country and making India a hub of International Commercial Arbitration. In case, we sleep over the matter, the legal fraternity of India may be left behind in providing legal/professional expertise in accordance to the rule of law in a manner consistent with the best interests of this fast growing class of clients in India. Let us ensure that an opportunity for creating development and growth for legal profession and in the legal sphere in India is not lost”.
Foreign lawyers would be allowed to practice on transactional work /corporate work such as joint ventures, mergers and acquisitions, intellectual property matters, drafting of contracts and other related matters on reciprocal basis.
Foreign lawyers or foreign law firms can also open up law offices in India and also enter into a partnership with one or more foreign lawyers or foreign law firms registered in India.
“Providing legal expertise/advise and appearing as a lawyer for a person, firm, company, corporation, trust, society etc. who/which is having an address or principal office or head office in the foreign country of the primary qualification in proceedings before bodies other than Courts, Tribunals, Boards, statutory authorities who are not legally entitled to take evidence on oath, in which knowledge of foreign law of the country of the primary qualification is essential”, it said.
Reacting to the development, Rajesh Narain Gupta, Managing Partner of SNG & Partners, said,
"Entry of foreign law firms will change the landscape for law firms in India. This would overall support in a big way the ambition of India to be more visible and valuable in a global context, especially on international trade and commerce. This will be a game changer for the mid-size firms and will also help the law firm in India to achieve more efficiency in talent management, IA, technology, domain knowledge in a global context, and management."