The country’s top disciplinary and regulating organisation for legal education and practise, the Bar Council of India (BCI), has now permitted international law firms and attorneys to practise in India, but under certain conditions and on a reciprocity basis.
The BCI had long fought against the hiring of foreign attorneys and law companies.
The Bar Council of India (BCI) published the Bar Council of India Rules For Registration and Regulation of Foreign Attorneys and Foreign Law Firms in India, 2022, on March 10 in order to make it easier for foreign attorneys to register and practise in India.
This occurs five years after the Supreme Court approved the temporary entry of foreign attorneys and legal firms but deferred to the BCI’s drafting of the necessary regulations.
The BCI has crafted the restrictions so as not to jeopardise the chances of Indian lawyers, from limiting international lawyers and firms to acting only as advisors to their clients in India to making registration renewal obligatory every five years.
It’s time to make a decision regarding this. According to the BCI notification on the rules, “BCI is of the view that opening up law practise in India to foreign lawyers in the field of practise of foreign law; diverse international legal issues in non-litigious matters and in international arbitration cases would go a long way in helping the legal profession/domain grow in India to the benefit of lawyers in India as well.
The BCI resolved to implement these regulations, it continued, “Taking an all-inclusive view, the BCI resolves to enable foreign lawyers and foreign law firms to practise foreign law and diverse international law and international arbitration matters in India on the principle of reciprocity in a well-defined, regulated and controlled manner.”
Officials from the BCI, who were on the committee that created the guidelines, told ThePrint that, subject to registration, foreign attorneys and law firms will only be permitted to engage in non-litigious work, and even then, only in an advising capacity. With regard to instances involving international arbitration, exceptions are made.
According to the rules, such attorneys and firms are not permitted to appear before tribunals or other judicial or regulatory bodies.
They would be allowed to practise transactional work/corporate work such as joint ventures, mergers and acquisitions, intellectual property matters, contract drafting, and other related matters on a reciprocal basis, but they would only be allowed to provide advice regarding the law of the country in which they received their primary qualification.
The guidelines are clear that such attorneys are not permitted to work on anything related to property-related issues.
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