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Explore the Bar Council of India’s new rules allowing foreign lawyers and law firms to practice foreign law in India. Learn about the impact on Indian lawyers and the restricted areas of practice.

On March 15, the Bar Council of India (BCI) notified Rules for Registration and Regulation of Foreign Lawyers and Foreign Law Firms in India, 2022 and gave a green signal to foreign lawyers and law firms for practicing in India. In a pathbreaking development, the Bar Council of India has decided to permit foreign lawyers and law firms to practice foreign law in India.

These rules will enable India to be preferred as a venue for International Arbitration Proceedings, thus, helping India become a hub of International Commercial Arbitration.

What are the Rules for Foreign lawyers in India? 

Background

On March 13, 2018, Indian Court declared that foreign law firms or lawyers could not provide legal services in the country, whether it be litigious or advisory. Nevertheless, the ruling stated that foreign law firms or lawyers could come to India for a specified duration of time to give legal counsel to their clients. The court also requested the BCI to craft fitting regulations in this regard.

In simple words, any foreign firm was not allowed to operate in India. 

It has been categorically stated that the rules shall allow foreign lawyers entry into India to function in a very restricted sphere. 

Impact on Indian Lawyers

As per the BCI Rules for Registration and Regulation of Foreign Lawyers and Foreign Law Firms in India, 2022, foreign lawyers practicing in India would function in a very restricted sphere and the decision will not impact the Advocates practicing in India. 

The BCI stated the following points –

  • Foreign Lawyers and Law Firms (FLF) are only allowed to advise their clients about Foreign and International laws. 
  • FLF can render advisory work for their foreign clients only. 
  • FLF are allowed to function in non-litigation areas only.
  • FLF will 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.

Note: Entry of foreign lawyers is on a reciprocal basis only. In simple words only the lawyers of those countries will be permitted in India, where Indian lawyers are also permitted to practice.

Area of Practice

FLF will have the opportunity to engage in transactional and corporate work, including but not limited to joint ventures, mergers and acquisitions, intellectual property matters, and contract drafting. This opportunity will be reciprocated on the condition that FLF will not be permitted to handle any tasks related to property conveyancing, title investigation, or other similar works.

Foreign lawyers allowed to work in India

The FLF can indulge in the following arena of services –

  • Providing transaction or business related advice and opinion concerning the laws of the country of the primary qualification; 
  • Providing legal expertise/advice and appearing as a lawyer for a person, firm, company, corporation, trust, society etc. who/which is having an address or principal office or head office in a foreign country in any international arbitration case which is conducted in India and in such arbitration case “foreign law may or may not be involved; 
  • Providing legal expertise/advice and appearing as a lawyer for a person, firm, company, corporation, trust, society etc. who/which is having an address or principal office or head office in the foreign country of the primary qualification in proceedings before bodies other than Courts, Tribunals, Boards, statutory authorities who are not legally entitled to take evidence on oath, in which knowledge of foreign law of the country of the primary qualification is essential; 
  • Providing legal expertise/advice concerning the laws of the Country of primary qualification and on diverse international legal issues, provided that such legal expertise/advice, unless otherwise provided for in these Rules, shall not include representation or the preparation of documents regarding procedures before an Indian Court of Law, Tribunal or any other Authority competent to record evidence on oath or preparation of any documents, petitions etc. to be submitted to any such forum regarding such procedures. 
  • Provided that an Advocate enrolled with any State Bar Council in India and is a partner or Associate in any Foreign Law Firm registered in India under these rules and regulations, can take up only the non-litigious matters and can advise on issues relating to countries other than the Indian Laws only. Such Lawyer shall have no advantage / right of his being an Advocate enrolled in India.

Registration Requirements 

FLF shall register themselves with the Bar Council of India to be entitled to practice law in India This prohibition will not apply to law practice by a foreign lawyer or foreign law firm in case such practice is done on a ‘fly in and fly out basis’, which does not in aggregate exceed 60 days in any period of 12 months.

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