Bar Council of India: The Bar Council of India (BCI) has agreed to allow foreign lawyers and law firms to practise in India. The statutory body of lawyers has issued guidelines for the registration of foreign lawyers and law firms in India. The latest rules enable foreign lawyers & foreign law firms to practise diverse international law, international arbitration in India.
These rules are based on ‘principle of reciprocity in a well -defined, regulated and controlled manner’, the BCI said in the notification.
In a notification, the Bar Council of India said, “Opening up of law practise in India to foreign lawyers in the field of practise 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”.
The apex body added that the move will not impact law practise in India if done in a restricted and well-controlled and regulated manner.
Registration of foreign lawyers
The Rules state unequivocally that a foreign lawyer or law firm may not practise law in India unless registered with the BCI.
This prohibition will not apply to law practise by a foreign lawyer or foreign law firm on a ‘fly in and fly out basis’ for the purpose of giving legal advice to a client in India on foreign law or international legal issues. In this case, however, the lawyer/firm cannot have an office in India, and their practise cannot exceed 60 days in any 12-month period.
In a pathbreaking development, the Bar Council of India has decided to permit foreign lawyers and law firms to practice foreign law and diverse international law and international arbitration matters in India on reciprocity basis.
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What does the current law say about foreign lawyers and law firms?
Advocates enrolled with the BCI “alone” can “practise law” in India, according to the Advocates Act of India, 1961. To do so, they must first obtain a lawyer’s licence from the BCI. However, they can only do so if their home country allows Indian lawyers to practise there.
BCI informed the Supreme Court in 2018 that it was opposed to foreign law firms opening branch offices in India. The Supreme Court also ruled that foreign lawyers and firms are not permitted to practise law in India unless they meet certain requirements.