India opens its doors to international law firms

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By Emily Hinkley on


Could secondment opportunities follow?

The Bar Council of India (BCI) has given international law firms the go-ahead to practice foreign law in the country.

The new rules will allow BCI registered solicitors and other foreign lawyers to practice English, Welsh and international law in non-contentious matters and represent clients outside of India in international arbitration matters within the country.

International firms that register with the BCI will also be able to open offices to provide these services and access legal expertise relating to Indian laws from advocates enrolled with any Indian State Bar Council.

There are limits to the changes, which will not extend to litigation before courts and tribunals in India and only allow international transactional work on a reciprocal basis.

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India has one of the biggest legal markets in the world and the move could create exciting new international secondment opportunities for trainees whose firms set up offices in the country.

The loosening of strict protectionist rules that prevent anyone but Indian citizens from practising law in the country has been hotly debated over the last 20 years. But until now many international firms have worked around the issue by running their India practices out of other countries or through tie-ups with local outfits.

Commenting on the long-awaited approval, Law Society president Lubna Shuja said: “The Bar Council of India’s decision is a significant step forward in this long-standing issue and will create huge opportunities for solicitors and Indian advocates in both countries.”

India is not the only country relaxing rules on foreign firms practising within their boundaries. Saudi Arabia recently granted Clifford Chance, Dentons, Herbert Smith Freehills and Latham & Watkins the first three licences to practise law there as foreign firms.

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