• India
  • Mar 16

BCI permits foreign lawyers, firms to practise in India

• The Bar Council of India (BCI) has decided to permit foreign lawyers and law firms to practise in areas such as foreign law, international legal issues and arbitration matters.

• The BCI has framed the ‘Bar Council of India Rules for Registration of Foreign Lawyers and Foreign Law Firms in India, 2021’.

• This is the first time that foreign law firms and lawyers have been permitted registration under the Advocates Act, 1961.

• Foreign lawyer means a person, including a law firm, limited liability partnership, company or a corporation, by whatever name called or described, who/which is entitled to practice law in a foreign country.

Opening up of law practice in India

• In the opinion of the Bar Council of India, the legal profession in India has to rise to the occasion to meet the global changes in the legal arena caused by migration of people from one country to other on such a large scale that had not been witnessed in earlier days. 

• International trade and commerce is advancing at a great pace. The demand for an open, responsive and receptive legal professional dispensation mechanism in India from clients/public who operate in international and cross-country business is becoming severe day by day. 

• Growth in international legal work sphere and globalisation of legal practice and internationalisation of the law is increasingly becoming relevant to the growth of the legal profession and practices in India.

• Bar Council of India was initially opposing entry of foreign lawyers and foreign law firms in India in any form.

• With further delay, the legal fraternity of India may be left behind in providing legal/professional expertise in accordance to the rule of law in a manner consistent with the best interests of this fast growing class of clients in India. 

• Many countries have already allowed the foreign lawyers to practice foreign law and diverse international legal issues and arbitration matters in their countries in restricted fields with specific and prescribed conditions.

• Taking an all-inclusive view, the Bar Council of India resolves to implement certain rules enabling the foreign lawyers and foreign law firms to practice foreign law and diverse international law and international arbitration matters in India on the principle of reciprocity in a well defined, regulated and controlled manner.

• The BCI is of the view that opening up of law practice in India to foreign lawyers in the field of practice of foreign law, diverse international legal issues in non-litigious matters and in international arbitration cases would go a long way in helping legal profession/domain grow in India to the benefit of lawyers in India too. 

• It is noteworthy that the standards of Indian lawyers in proficiency in law is comparable with the international standards and the legal fraternity in India is not likely to suffer any disadvantage in case law practice in India is opened up to foreign lawyers in a restricted and well controlled and regulated manner on the principle of reciprocity as it would be mutually beneficial for lawyers from India and abroad and these rules are an attempt by Bar Council of India in this direction.

• These rules will also help to address the concerns expressed about flow of Foreign Direct Investment in the country and making India a hub of International Commercial Arbitration. 

Areas of work

• A foreign lawyer or foreign law firm shall be entitled to practice law in India if he/it is registered with the Bar Council of India under certain Rules.

• ‘Right to practice law’ in the concerned ‘foreign country of the primary qualification’ shall be the primary qualification for practicing law in India under these rules.

• The cost of registration has been fixed at $25,000 for lawyers and $50,000 for law firms while renewal will incur cost of $10,000 and $20,000, respectively under the two heads.

• A foreign lawyer registered under Rules shall be entitled to practice law in India in non-litigious matters only subject to such exceptions, conditions and limitations as are laid down under these Rules.

• The foreign lawyers or foreign Law Firms shall not be permitted to appear before any courts, tribunals or other statutory or regulatory authorities.

• They shall be allowed to practice on transactional work /corporate work such as joint ventures, mergers and acquisitions, intellectual property matters, drafting of contracts and other related matters on reciprocal basis.

• They shall not be involved or permitted to do any work pertaining to conveyancing of property, title investigation or other similar works.

Bar Council of India

• The Bar Council of India (BCI) is a statutory body created by Parliament to regulate and represent the Indian bar. 

• The BCI was constituted under the Advocates Act, 1961 and it has been empowered among other things, to lay down standards of professional conduct and etiquette for lawyers and to maintain and improve the standards of legal education in the country. 

• While the State Bar Councils are the authorities for enrolment of advocates, the State Bar Councils and the Bar Council of India together enforce discipline among lawyers. 

• The Bar Council of India acts as appellate authority in respect of disciplinary matters.

• The Council meets at regular intervals to transact business in accordance with the agenda circulated to the members. 

• It performs certain representative functions by protecting the rights, privileges and interests of advocates and through the creation of funds for providing financial assistance to organise welfare schemes for them.

Functions of BCI:

• To lay down standards of professional conduct and etiquette for advocates.

• To lay down procedure to be followed by its disciplinary committee and the disciplinary committees of each State Bar Council.

• To safeguard the rights, privileges and interests of advocates.

• To promote and support law reform.

• To deal with and dispose of any matter which may be referred to it by a State Bar Council.

• To promote legal education and to lay down standards of legal education.

• To recognise universities whose degree in law shall be a qualification for enrolment as an advocate. 

• To organise legal aid to the poor.

• To recognise on a reciprocal basis, the foreign qualifications in law obtained outside India for the purpose of admission as an advocate in India.

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