Bar Council Allows Foreign Law Firms, Lawyers to Practice in India

A massive policy change by the Bar Council of India to allow foreign lawyers and companies to operate in the country.

On Wednesday, the Bar Council of India (BCI) allowed foreign lawyers and law firms to practice foreign law and various international laws as well as international arbitration in India, LiveLaw reported. This will be based on reciprocity.

To this end, BCI has notified the Bar Association of India of the Rules for the Registration and Regulation of Foreign Lawyers and Foreign Law Firms in India, 2022. Various international legal issues in law, non-litigation matters and international arbitration cases will greatly contribute to developing the Indian legal profession/field and thus benefit Indian lawyers.”

The BCI said the entry of foreign law firms would be restricted, controlled and regulated to ensure mutual benefit for Indian and foreign lawyers, the report said.

“These rules will also help address concerns about foreign direct investment flows in the country and make India a centre for international commercial arbitration. If we sleep over this matter, India’s legal profession may fall behind in providing evidence based on the rule of law. Deliver legal/expertise in a manner that is in the best interest of this rapidly growing client class in India. Let us ensure that opportunities to create development and growth for the legal profession and legal field are not lost in India,” the body said in the report.

Under the Advocates Act of India, 1961, lawyers registered “solely” with the BCI can “practice law” in India. They must obtain a license to practice law from BCI to do this. But they can only do so if their country allows Indian lawyers to practice law there.

In 2018, BCI told the Supreme Court that it was not in favour of allowing foreign law firms to open branches in India. The Supreme Court also passed a ruling stating that foreign lawyers and companies cannot practice in India unless they meet the requirements.

The BCI’s latest notification is a marked departure from its 2018 position.

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