Overseas law firms may be allowed in India
Indian Law Firms to allow their Foreign peers – The local law firms which are currently being led by the Society for Indian Law Firms (SILF) have moved forward a recommendation to the Govt of India which states that in four phases the Govt could allow the foreign law firms in India. This decision marks a reversal of the position which could lead to the bar being lifted. Still the four big companies which offer legal services are opposing this decision which are KPMG, PwC, Deloitte and EY.
For a long time, the entry of foreign law firms in India has been opposed by the domestic ones. However, changing its stance, SILF recently submitted a detailed plan regarding this matter. With this, Indian firms will also be allowed to promote their services.
If Indian Govt agrees to this recommendation, it would lead to the amendment of Advocates Act. The Govt could further ask the Ministries of both Law and Commerce to start working on a regulatory structure that could allow Multinational Law Firms to practise in India. SILF is the representative body of law firms in India.
Lalit Bhasin, who is the President of SILF while speaking to media stated that they are willing to allow the Foreign Law Firms in the Indian market, but it should take place in a phased manner. Out of the four phases, during the first phase the Indian firms should be allowed to own websites as well as brochures. After this, foreign firms should be allowed to give advice to their Indian Clients on the Foreign Laws. in the third phase, they should be allowed to have collaborative advice. During the fourth and last phase, they should be allowed to practise domestic laws with certain exceptions.
However, Bhasin emphasised on the fact that the foreign law firms should be excluded from key sectors such as Defence – giving the example of Singapore.
Bhasin further stated that the govt further needs to amend the Advocates Act because currently it allows only Indian citizens to practise law. The Bar Council of India and SILF are strictly against the Big Four venturing into legal profession. They are even fighting a Court case regarding this issue.
And Delhi Bar Council has made it clear that it is still opposed to foreign law firms venturing into India. Bar Council of Delhi (BCD) Chairman KC Mittal has stated that not only BCD but other similar law bodies are also opposed to entry of foreign law firms in India in any manner.
The Indian Govt has always been in favour of allowing foreign law firms to practise in India. Earlier it had amended a rule where Multinational Law Firms were allowed to have offices and advice clients belonging to special economic zones in order to provide benefit to Gujarat International Fin-tech City two years back in 2017. However, the govt had to abandon this plan after law bodies condemned this plan by accusing the Govt of allowing the Foreign Law Firms through the Back door.
Similarly in 2018, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs had set up an expert panel which had stated that govt should amend the Advocates Act so that Audit Firms could be allowed to offer legal services. The MCA panel was supposed to look into audit firm regulations as well as their networks. It had stated that the Multi Disciplinary Practises (MDP) firms should be allowed to get developed. To meet this goal, the auditors need to be given permission in order to expand their portfolios.
Currently the local law bodies of India are fighting a case with the Big Four over the latter allegedly flouting rules and their decision to offer the legal services. Across the globe, these four companies offer alternate legal services in some and full-scale one in other parts.