Foreign law firms can only advise foreign clients on foreign law: BCI

Bar Council of India also said that the new rules will help India become a global hub of international commercial arbitration

BS Web Team New Delhi
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Issuing a clarification on the recently published notification allowing foreign lawyers and law firms to practise in India, the Bar Council of India (BCI) said they will be allowed to advise their foreign clients only on foreign laws.
"Foreign lawyers and Law Firms shall be allowed to advise their clients about Foreign laws and international laws only," the press release issued by BCI said. 

"They would render advisory work about such laws for their foreign clients only," it added. 
It added that they would be allowed to work only in non-litigation areas. These areas do not involve judicial process and include corporate advisory, negotiations, mergers, acquisitions and document building, among other things.

Moreover, BCI clarified that the entry of foreign lawyers would be on a reciprocal basis. "The lawyers of only those countries would be permitted in India, where Indian lawyers are also permitted to practice," it said. 
The Supreme Court, on March 13, 2018, in BCI versus AK Balaji & Ors, had asked the BCI or the government to frame rules about the entry of foreign lawyers and law firms. Last week, BCI issued a notification allowing foreign lawyers and law firms to practice foreign law and international arbitration in India in non-litigious matters on the principle of reciprocity.

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"It is to be 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 AK Balaji & Ors. Moreover reciprocity is the very essence of the Rule, which may be kept in mind," the BCI said in the latest release. 
"Experience and facts show that MNCs and foreign commercial entities, 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 prefer London, Singapore, Paris, etc. as the venue for arbitration proceedings," it added.

The BCI also said the rules would help India become a hub of international commercial arbitration.
"The BCI stands committed to protecting and safeguard interest and welfare of advocates in the country and requests the entire advocate fraternity to welcome these rules in national interest," it said.

First Published: Mar 21 2023 | 9:26 AM IST

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