Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Foreign Law Firms Cannot Legally Practice In India In Any Form

The Bombay High Court has decided that legal practice by foreign firms in India, in any form whatsoever, is illegal. With this International firms Ashurst, Chadbourne & Parke and White & Case have lost the long-running case since 1995 against the Lawyers' Collective. The judgement and reasoning of the court has not yet been published but lawyers for both sides have confirmed the decision.

Interestingly, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had granted permissions to some foreign firms to run liaison offices. With the present judgement this permission has been quashed and any further doing of business by these firms in India would be illegal. The court also held that the practice of law under the Advocates Act in India encompasses all forms of practice, not just litigation practice in court but also corporate practice, advisory practice, M&A and the whole works.

According to Praveen Dalal, the leading Techno-Legal Expert of India and Managing Partner of Perry4Law, “This decision is a landmark decision regarding opening of legal sector for foreign law firms. Till now lawyers in India were opposing any such move. However, the government of India was considering the option of opening of non-litigation segments of law for foreign firms. With the present judgement, the matter has been settled unless the Supreme Court of India decides otherwise”.

This is a great victory for the law firms of India. It is crucial to note that lawyers doing individual litigation practice in Indian courts are not going to be affected in any case as the foreign firms were trying to establish laws firms with primarily non-litigation work. The matter would be definitely taken up before the Supreme Court of India through appeal and till that time we have to keep our fingers crossed.