The Bar Council of India (BCI) has allowed foreign lawyers and law firms to practice law in India on a reciprocal basis. For this the Rules for Registration and Regulation of Foreign Lawyers and Foreign Law Firms in India, 2022 have been notified.
How can foreign lawyers work in India? You are thinking to yourself that that law is different and Indian law is different. Foreign lawyers do not have the right to appear in courts in India. It is offered only to Indian lawyers.
As per the rules, a registered foreign advocate is eligible to practice as an advocate in India only in non-litigation matters. If foreign lawyers and law firms come to India, they can only provide assistance on a reciprocal basis in dealing with India’s international transactions and corporate issues.
A person who has studied law abroad is eligible to register his name with the Bar Council of India if he is qualified and admitted to practice law in the same country. The Bar Council has set a registration fee of $25,000 for a foreign lawyer and $50,000 for a law firm. Foreign lawyers or firms cannot practice in India without registering with the BCI
Foreign lawyers or foreign law firms are not permitted to appear before any courts, tribunals or other statutory or regulatory authorities. They are allowed only as ‘consultant’ in transactional work/corporate work like joint ventures, mergers and acquisitions, intellectual property matters, drafting of contracts and other related matters.
These provisions will help address concerns about growth of FDI in the country and making India a hub for international trade arbitrage. It also helps in formulating plans to deal with international issues. According to the Bar Council, this legal fraternity will help create laws in the best interests of India’s rapidly growing clientele.
However, if a foreign lawyer or law firm works on a ‘fly in and fly out’ basis to advise Indian clients on foreign law, the reciprocity rule does not apply. That is, as per the Supreme Court interpretation of 2015, this is not applicable if foreign lawyers have only come to act as counsel in international commercial arbitration in cases involving foreign law.
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The same restrictions apply to Indian lawyers working with foreign law firms. Further, the Bar Council said that if there is a need for procedures or legislation for foreign lawyers and firms, the relevant legislation will be formulated in collaboration with the Government of India or Ministry of Law and Justice.
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