The recent meeting of the Bar Council of India (BCI) and the American Bar Association (ASA) followed by the meeting of BCI with the Law Ministry on the subject of ‘entry of foreign law firms’ based on the policy of Liberisation has raised quite a few eyebrows, giving few senior advocates a subtle myocardial infarction. While some of the policy litigators might take it as a step towards growth and development, there might be a portion of the legal community not sharing the same thought for reasons which can be regarded as majoritarian.

Foreign firms are based on different beliefs and ideologies; their services and cost of services are something which must be considered before contemplating their entry into the Indian legal system. The Indian system of providing legal services is much more cost effective than that of US or any other country for that instance. A single consultation with any US based attorney will cost an Indian client a fortune and thus only a fraction of the Indian population would be able to afford it. Any foreign law firm therefore setting up its office/branch in India would have to do a lot of cost cutting on its services which only a few of the tier-one firms would agree upon and so in a way the quality of legal service that would be provided, needs tried and tested before arriving at any conclusion.

Foreign firms generally do not possess any operating policy in consonance to the needs of a developing country where majority of the justice seeking population belongs from the lower stratum of the society and taking into condition the Indian justice system and its pace, the foreign firms will face a serious challenge in reframing their policy to exclusively deal with the issues of a country like India.  The firms would then have to undergo a whetstone test and that is where they will come face to face with the already existing law firms in India, some big names like Amarchand & Managaldas, AZB & Partners, Khaitan & Co. for that matter. Why should an Indian client choose a foreign firm when the same work can be done by the Indian firm having good knowledge of the appropriate procedure and having a long rooted practice before the courts and tribunals at the same time? It is therefore a question the foreign firms need to find an answer to before making any such entry into the Indian legal system.

The question thus which still remain is whether these firms would be able to understand the problems of the Indian population: the caste, gender, religion or the Indian society as a whole? The entry of the foreign firms in India would affect the business of the current Indian law firms to a great extent especially those firms which have a lot of foreign clients since these clients might prefer litigating or taking up services of a foreign law firm based in Indian than an Indian law firm for obvious reasons of comity and human nature.

Thus it all boils down to one simple query that whether these foreign firms would be able to compete to the already established Indian law firms having a good command over the Indian legal system and have already proved their worth through its services and whether the Indian legal system would be so welcoming in reality as it looks on paper? If it so happens that inspite of the measures taken by the foreign law firms, most of the Indian population opts for an Indian firm than a foreign firm, the only option these foreign firms would remain with is to get into another consultation with the BCI and fix a quota for themselves or be happy with the foreign client base they would bring in with themselves. The Indian legal system has innumerable number of advocates, with inceptions of young lawyers every quarter of a year. In such a scenario, bringing in foreign firms will affect the growth of the legal mind in our country and in no way it is going to benefit the contemporary young generation lawyers of India.

~ Kunal Dey


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