Seeking to clear the air around some of the issues on recent opening up of legal services to foreign law firms, the Bar Council of India (BCI) has clarified that the foreign law firms and foreign lawyers can render advisory work on foreign laws for “their foreign clients” only.

The BCI has now made it clear that foreign law firms and foreign lawyers would be allowed to advise their clients about foreign and international laws only.

Foreign law firms entry - BCI walks on thin ice   Foreign law firms entry - BCI walks on thin ice  

Also, the entry of foreign lawyers would be on reciprocal basis i.e. lawyers of only those countries would be permitted in India, where Indians are allowed to practice.

These clarifications come as part of BCI’s attempts to sort out the misgivings in circulation about its recently published notification regarding entry of foreign lawyers and law firms in India.

Noting that the foreign lawyers entry has been allowed in a “very restricted sphere”, the BCI has said in a statement that the opening up move is not going to impact at all Advocates practising in India. 

As part of the statement, BCI has reiterated that Foreign lawyers and law firms shall be allowed to function in non-litigation areas only.

Foreign lawyers and law firms would not be allowed to appear in any Court, Tribunal, Board, before any Statutory or Regulatory Authority or any forum legally entitled to take evidence on oath and/or having trappings of a court, it added.

International Commercial Arbitration

Also, Foreign lawyers would be allowed to appear for their clients in International Commercial Arbitration and this move would help India become a hub of International Commercial Arbitration.

“Experience and facts show that MNCs and foreign commercial dhentities, in case of International Commercial Arbitration, don’t prefer India as a venue of Arbitration Proceedings, because they are not allowed to bring lawyers and law firms from their own countries to advise them in International Commercial Arbitration Proceedings, thus, making them to prefer London, Singapore, Paris etc. as the venue for Arbitration Proceedings. BCI’s rules will, now, encourage India being preferred as a venue for such International Arbitration Proceedings”, BCI statement said.

AK Balaji case

BCI also said that it has issued the latest rules to comply with the directions of the Supreme Court in the AK Balaji case. BCI said that it stands committed to protect and safeguard interest and welfare of Advocates in the country and requested the entire Advocates’ fraternity to welcome these rules in National Interest.

BCI also noted that this rule should not be misconstrued to allow any non-lawyer or any BPO/ etc. any agent, to come to India and start practising in any sphere, and/or under any trading style, if in pith and substance, it amounts to practise of law as held in A.K.Balaji &Ors.