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Role of Foreign Lawyers in Indian Jurisdiction

Role of Foreign Lawyers in Indian Jurisdiction

By Tanisha Poddar

It was not long ago that the entry and operation of foreign law firms and lawyers in India seemed improbable.

The Supreme Court modified a Madras High Court order permitting foreign lawyers and law firms to India on a “fly in and fly out” basis for rendering legal services.

Accordingly foreign lawyers cannot carry out any litigation or non-litigation work in India on a permanent basis, the Supreme Court held in a ruling, which also give the Bar Council of India regulatory control over overseas legal professions.

With the changing time the world has greatly shrunk as a result of scientific and technological developments drastically.  As a consequence, events in one part of the world have an immediate impact on the rest of the world. For instance, global economic or financial crisis which started in America impacted the whole world including India, China and many other developed and developing countries that resulted in the collapse of large financial institutions, the bailout of banks by national governments and downturns in stock markets around the world.

Similarly there are other issues of maintenance of peace, security and sovereignty of countries, Environment degradation, Terrorism, Piracy, Air and Space law, Law of seas, Airplane Hijacking, International trade and commerce and disputes related thereto, Economic-Social and Cultural developments of countries, promotion, protection of Human Rights and International trade and business etc. These issues are global in nature and cannot be confined to and solved within territorial or political boundaries.

Therefore, Countries need to maintain regular relations with other countries because a modern country cannot lead an isolated life in the present context of world affairs. The more a country is civilized and perfect in its organization, the greater and more familiar shall be its intercourse with other Countries.  This leads Government of a country must not only conduct its internal affairs but also regulate its conduct towards the Governments and citizens of other Countries.

Just as men could not live together in a society without laws and customs to regulate their actions, so Countries could not have mutual intercourse without usages and conventions to regulate their conduct. 

 International Law impinges on country sovereignty by creating new structures for regulating relations across international boundaries. International law and International Norms limits the country sovereignty in another way.  They create principles for governing international relations that compete with the core realist principles of sovereignty and anarchy.  International Law derives not from actions of any legislative branch or other central authority, but from traditions and agreements signed by countries.  It also differs in the difficulty of enforcement, which depends not on the power and authority of central government but on reciprocity, collective action and international norms. 

Without International laws, its lawyers and customs, it is impossible for countries to maintain relations on the basis of peace, harmony and mutual co-operation. Rather, then the rule ‘might is right’ will prevail that would be destructive for the global peace and humanity.

There are numerous ways in which entry of foreign lawyers in India may prove to be a boon.

Transfer of Knowledge

Entry of foreign players into India would allow exchange of knowledge, expertise, and skill between Indian and foreign firms. This will facilitate enrichment and transfer of resources at a mutual level.

Global Opportunities for Indian Lawyers

Allowing foreign law firms in India on reciprocal basis will provide Indian lawyers the opportunity to practice abroad. The result will be a wider net of opportunity to provide services to leading companies, locally as well as globally.

Indian firms will be able to widen the net of their practice by providing advice on transnational transactions involving Indian companies.

Infrastructural Development at Institutional Level

This kind of development is necessary at both academic and practical training level. Entry of foreign law firms will raise the bar of present legal education. The focus will shift from academic cramming to instilling practical knowledge and training in students.

Job Creation

If foreign law firms set up shop in India, they will need manpower in the form of lawyers who are well versed with the local law. Indian attorneys who know the local working conditions first-hand fit the bill perfectly. Even if a small percentage of the total workforce consists of foreign lawyers, it is still a huge job creation opportunity for the Indian legal service sector.

The Indian legal fraternity stands to gain from this move and not lose out. Graduates fresh out of law school will be able to find lucrative opportunities in their home country, but with international exposure.

Improved Quality of Service

The competition that emerges at an international level will help improve the present quality of legal service. Service that conforms to international standards will eventually lead to superior quality of service being offered at competitive prices. This will prove to be a substantial relief for a client who have to shell out significant sums of money to avail quality legal service.

However to look on the other side we find Loss of opportunities for local law firms and Indian attorneys is the primary concern at this moment. Just as the entry of retail giants like Amazon has hit small time retailers and dealers in India, this move is being perceived in a similar vein.

Another concern is the considerable gap in legal training and education in India when compared to its foreign counterparts. This raises serious questions about the employability of fresh graduates and young legal professionals.

But, the benefits of allowing foreign lawyers in India far outweigh the negatives on any given day. The service sector thrives on competitive prices and quality of service on offer. Entry of foreign firms and foreign lawyers in India will result in increased competition. In turn, it will see Indian firms competing to provide the best price and offer the best service.

Eventually, it will play out to the benefit of both the service recipient and the provider. Increased quality will translate to increased business. For the customers, quality and competitive prices will ensure the best service at negotiable prices.

Support of seasoned lawyers only strengthens the case for allowing foreign lawyers in India.

Entry of foreign lawyers in India in a phased manner is the need of the hour so as to allow the Indian legal service market to keep abreast with the global legal industry under the rules defined.


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