Report on Draft BCI Rules for opening of foreign legal market in India

  1. foreign legal market

30th August, 2016- New Delhi- The Ministry of Law & Justices received a detailed report on the Draft Bar Council of India (BCI) Rules for Registration & Regulation of Foreign Lawyers in India, 2016. The comprehenssive report has been jointly prepared by Hammurabi & Solomon, Indian National Bar Association and Medhaadvisors. A copy of the report can be accessed from at BCI rules report 2016.

BCI had come out with draft Rules for Registration & Regulation of Foreign Lawyers in India under the provisions of the Advocates Act, 1961. At a meeting held on 5th July 2016, the Union Law Ministry had sought inputs from stake-holders on the said draft Rules.

The report submits that ‘Ease of Doing Business’ by entrepreneurs in India should be at the centre-stage of reforms in the legal services sector in India. With India targetting a $5 trillion GDP in the next 5-7 years, the reforms in legal services sector has to keep pace with the requirements of stakeholders in the development and growth of India.

The reforms envisaged in the said draft rules impact a multitude of stakeholders including Indian and foreign companies, emerging class of Indian entrepreneurs under numerous initiatives of the government requiring high quality and competitively prices, domestic & foreign legal advise, large law firms, emerging law firms, boutique law firms, small law firms, Law Schools, Interns & Students, ADR & mediation Professionals and General Counsels. Each and most of these stake holder’s are impacted differently by the said reforms. Therefore, the said reforms would need to drive the growth of all the above stakeholders.

India must emerge as the legal services capital to the world in the Asian and African region, the report submits. The reforms should therefore enable the best quality of legal support be available at the very doorstep of entrepreneurs and professionals doing business in India and in the region.

The report examines the global best practices followed in other jurisdictions including United States of America, UK, Singapore, Brazil, South Africa, South Korea, Japan, Russia, China, Malaysia and Indonesia.

The report recommends the entry of foreign lawyers/law firms in a phased manner with indicative timelines as follows:

  • The first phase would be to allow foreign lawyers to practice in the areas covered in the Draft BCI Rules within this year.
  • The second phase would be bringing about internal reforms in various applicable laws such as the Advocates Act, 1961 and Limited Liability Partnership Act, 2008 which would in turn allow more partners to be part of the firm, removing restrictions on advertising and initiating reforms in the education sector is necessary to ensure availability of a good talent pool in legal profession.
  • Last Phase can be policy changes as necessary for expansion of the practice of foreign firms by allowing foreign lawyers to practice law in India including by forming joint ventures (JVs) and in Collaboration with Indian Lawyers. To come up with rules and policies to regulate the foreign lawyers and keep a check on their activity and to set up a disciplinary body to keep a tab on foreign lawyers as well.
  • Reciprocity and Level playing Field to Indian Lawyers/Law Firm .