Global law, local practice – BCI’s move recognises India’s corporate globalisation

ForumIAS announcing GS Foundation Program for UPSC CSE 2025-26 from 26th June. Click Here for more information.

Source: The post is based on the article “Non-essential curbs – Policy focus must shift from imports to exports” published in the Business Standard on 17th March 2023.

Syllabus: GS – 2: Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary.

Relevance: About BCI’s decision to permit foreign lawyers and firms.

News: Recently, the Bar Council of India (BCI) permitted foreign lawyers and law firms to practice in India.

About the BCI decision to permit foreign lawyers

Read here: Foreign lawyers, firms can operate in India: BCI

The principle of reciprocity will not be applicable if a foreign service works on a “fly-in-fly-out” basis to advise an Indian client. The restriction here is that such services  which cannot establish offices in India and their practice cannot exceed 60 days in any 12-month period.

Note: Advisory and contractual work form the bulk of corporate legal services anywhere in the world. 

What are the challenges in BCI’s decision to permit foreign lawyers and firms?

Ambiguity over Indian lawyers: The permissions are contingent on whether Indian lawyers will be permitted similar opportunities to practise in countries from where law firms are coming here.

Put the burden on BCI: The BCI will need to formulate specific regulations to ensure that foreign lawyers do not stray into Indian legal territory. For instance, Singapore has many foreign law firms.

Rise in legal fees: Permitting foreign lawyers and firms will increase the legal fees. As foreign law firms will need to attract and retain talent, which could raise transaction costs for small and medium firms.

What are the advantages of in BCI’s decision to permit foreign lawyers and firms?

At present, foreign law firms tying up with Indian companies or accessing domestic services prefer overseas centres such as Singapore or the UK for arbitration. This raises transaction costs. But permitting foreign lawyers and firms will provide India with a competitive advantage.

This will increase foreign direct investment, aid in India’s ambitions to become India a hub of international commercial arbitration and enhance the ease of doing business in India.

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