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Raj Kumar Makkad (Adv P & H High Court Chandigarh)     16 April 2010

Foreign Law Firms case heats up

Bar & Bench had first reported on the writ petition filed by Association of Indian lawyers against foreign law firms.Now, the Women Lawyers Association (WLA), a registered body, has joined the writ petition against the entry of foreign law firms and their modus operandi.

Speaking to Bar & Bench, President of WLA, Prasanna said “Advocates Act and advocates will lose their importance if foreign law firms are allowed in India. Foreign law firms will use their money power and make legal services beyond the reach of common man, and therefore, we are opposing their entry and also their already existing operations”. WLA, a 2,000-member body, is planning to stage a protest against the entry of these foreign law firms. She added “With the entry of these foreign firms, lawyers will lose their social bent of mind and will only work for money without fighting for any social cause”.

Most Bar Associations in India have expressed concern that the entry of foreign law firms will result in a cut-throat economic culture. Also, Bar Association and Bar Council have opposed the entry of Foreign Universities as some of them feel that entry of foreign universities is the first step for back door entry of foreign law firms.

Tamil Nadu Advocates Association is also going to file their application to join the writ petition to oppose the entry of foreign law firms. Speaking to Bar & Bench, President Paul Kanagaraj said, “We will file our impleading application during the next date of hearing. Though the matter has been listed twice it has not been taken up for hearing. When the matter reaches the bench during the next date, we will file our application to oppose these foreign law firms”.

The writ petition filed before the Madras High Court not only questions the entry of foreign law firms, but also questions several aspects such as income tax to be paid by the foreign law firms on work done in India, law firms operating under the guise of legal process outsourcing (LPO) units, immigration law violations and violations of advertisement restrictions by the Bar Council of India.

There have been mixed reactions on this writ petition. SILF President Lalit Bhasin said “There is some merit in the writ petition with respect to income tax claims of foreign law firms. Although, most foreign law firms work on India related issues in India, they avoid income tax by billing in foreign currency from their home country, thereby avoiding tax liability. Also, with respect to arbitration cases, where several foreign lawyers and foreign law firms continue to represent Indian clients before Arbitral tribunals conducted in India, which is a clear violation”.

A partner of a magic circle firm whose firm is one of the respondents in this writ petition said, “We provide advice on India related work when there is a foreign legal issue and do not provide advice on Indian law at any cost. No foreign law firm can claim to be an India expert and provide advice on Indian law as they are scared of being sued either for malpractice or for breach of Indian rules and regulations. Yes, we do meetings in India for convenience for all parties and not because we want to set up back door entry to practice law”. “We are excited about the opportunities that are available in India as the market is growing and want to look at setting up a practice when the Government takes an appropriate decision to open the legal services sector and not before that” he added.

Integreon is the only LPO to be named in the writ petition. Liam Brown, CEO of Integreon in its press statement had said “It is unfortunate that our size and clear leadership position in the LPO market has made us the LPO target for the petitioner”. “We were surprised to hear that our range of LPO services, such as document review, e-discovery, contract management and other legal support services could be confused with the practice of law.”

Bar & Bench spoke to Sanjay Kamlani,co-CEO of Pangea 3, a LPO service provider, “As a rule we provide no services to an Indian client or about anything to do with India. In fact we have advised our clients to approach Indian law firms such as ALMT legal, Thakker & Thakker if they have any questions or concerns of Indian law”.

One of the issues raised by the Petitioners is the issue of advertising of their India practice by these foreign law firms. Although it remains unclear as to what remedy the Court can grant against the website advertisement by the foreign law firms as these law firms are based outside India.

Speaking to Karthikeyan, the counsel for the petitioner Association, ''We are preparing another list of foreign law firms practicing in India. We will implead them in the writ petition during our next date of hearing” he said.

Bar & Bench will update on the other law firms that may be added to the already existing 31 foreign law firms and the progress of the writ petition.


 2 Replies

jayaveladvocate (Lawyer)     17 April 2010

Indian legal system is so complex that no foreign Lawyer would be able read  the judgments in written vernacular language, no salt worthy person would adopt to this culture of vaida and objections filed as formal counter for all the motions  no need for worrying the loss of vaida practice 

Abhinav (Associate)     31 December 2010

As a result of the high litigation costs and fees to law firms or attorneys, legal outsourcing firms in India have become a new practical choice for both multinational clients and job-seekers alike. It has been seen that outsourcing in any sector (IT, law etc.) starts with lower-end work. But, this trend is currently changing and more clients are seeking high-end specialized services too in all sectors of the LPO industry. The LPO sector shall continue to grow, going by the current shift in the demands of the market. The legal outsourcing industry is still new and has not fully developed. We have very few offshore legal service providers that provide specialized high end legal services. Once this trend of specialized high-end legal outsourcing gains more pace, greater amount and variety of legal work will be outsourced.


SDD Global Solutions

High End Legal Outsourcing

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