Categories:India & Pakistan

Ashurst shuts Delhi branch in wake of Lawyers Collective judgment

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Readers' comments (12)

  • What a pity the limitless greed of equity partners in UK firms will not be fed by the (growing and lucrative) Indian legal market.
    There is a quid pro quo here, maybe the Law Society should recognise Indian legal qualifications and in return, India will open the legal market to foreign competition. After all the Indian legal profession is based on the same principles and structure (for the most part) as the UK one.
    However, no doubt this article will (again) lead to a revaluation of “diversity” within UK firms by narrow-minded Partners, or at the very least, a number of people expressing this view from behind closed doors/anonymously.

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  • At poster number 1 - Are you seriously saying that Indian equity partners are charitable and not driven by greed? This is just nonsensical moralistic preaching that masks the real issues - a monopoly, the lack of choice and the poor quality that it breeds.

    You fail to realise that foreign law firms in India would be employing Indian lawyers, and not foreign lawyers - so your comments about recognition are irrelevant.

    As for 'diversity' well, just how diverse is the Indian legal market?

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  • The fact of the matter is that Ashurst, like most other international firms, haven't got a clue about what they want to do in India and how to successfully build an India practice. Simply getting on a flight to India every week and turning up and announcing that "We're XYZ Firm, give us work", is not enough to get clients in India to start instructing the international firms. There is very little value that an international firm can add to a client's domestic Indian legal work and both clients and Indian firms recognize this.

    All one has to do is look at the 16 years that Ashurst spent in India.. and the little that they have to show for it... Not even an Indian qualified lawyer heading the firms so called India practice!!!!

    Wonder how many Indian qualified partners/senior lawyers the firm has?? none at last count???

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  • At poster 2 (from poster 1).
    I do not doubt that the Indian Partners are more motivated by greed, I did not intend to be moralistic or preachy.
    But your point on a monopoly operating in the Indian market is absurd.
    Is it in India that the top four firms take all the lucrative work?
    It is the Indian Government who use the same small pool of law firms (effectively the same 4 firms)?
    Has it been the regulators of the Indian legal market who have created barriers to entry, that have caused wage inflation to grow to a ridiculous over the last couple of years. The wage inflation has been so great that firms have had to get rid of far more people than they would have preferred to in a down-turn, because of the ridiculous level of salaries?
    Will Indian law firms not help Rio Tinto and Microsoft save millions because the legal market in the UK is overpriced for the value it actually adds?
    It is the Indian legal market that does not complete on price because it has an over-inflated (and perhaps narcissistic) view of itself?
    Perhaps you should present a more consider view, as to which market operates as a monopoly, rather than informing us of your ill-conceived notions of the Indian legal market, of which you have little or no real information.

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  • I always smile when discussions of whether to open up the Indian legal market arise. More often than not, it descends (rapidly, like above posters) into a "My legal system can beat your legal system in a fight"-type argument.
    Has anyone thought that maybe Indian companies (ie the clients - have we forgotten about them?) are expanding outside discrete geographic areas and need legal assistance wherever they might be - UK, EU, USA, Africa, Asia, Australia etc? The clients will pick and choose the legal advisers they think will suit them.
    If Indian law firms do allow foreign law firms to operate officially in India, I think they will see a similar choice being made by foreign clients expanding to India.
    I'd like to see a discussion focussed on whether foreign or Indian lawyers better understand:
    - clients' commercial drivers;
    - clients' cultural and professional expectations of their legal advisors;
    - the legal advisors' ability to add value to the client; or
    - where the global legal profession will be in 50 years time.

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  • To the first poster, the Law Society does allow foreign lawyers to practise (in England) the laws of their own jurisdictions as Registered Foreign Lawyers without having to sit any Law Society exams. The canard of absence of reciprocity has been often raised as a justification for keeping foreign firms out by those in the Indian legal fraternity who have a vested interest in keeing foreign law firms out of India. Some Indian lawyers seem to blindly believe this nonsense without bothering to check the facts. What is often lost sight of, however, is that foreign law firms do not want to practise Indian law (litigation, corporate or otherwise) - they simply want to be able to practise the law of their own country in India so all this talk of transactional law, litigation etc just obfuscates the real issue. Why are foreign law firms not being allowed to practise the laws of their own countries in India? "Law" in the Advocates Act can realistically only refer to the law of India since an Indian lawyer cannot possibly advise on the laws of another country. It is absurd to suggest that the Indian Parliament intended to create a monopoly in favour of Indian lawyers for the practice of all law - Indian or foreign. The court did not amplify the meaning of "law" as used in the Advocates Act but this is the key issue. If the Advocates Act only regulates the practice of Indian law, it follows that the Bar Council of India has no authority to regulate foreign law firms or the practice of foreign law in India. The court's basis for quashing the licences granted by the RBI to the three firms therefore still remains unclear.

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  • Ashurst does have senior Indian lawyers within its ranks; they just seem to be curiously absent from its India practice. Ashurst's India strategy seems to be stuck in the colonial era. With the possible exception of Richard Gubbins none of the so called "leaders" of the India groups seems to have even a single India deal to his credit. Do they think just turning up in India every month and saying "we are Ashurst" is sufficient to get work in India? CC, Links and Herbies are light years ahead of Ashurst when it comes to India.

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  • To the first poster, if you think that three or four Indian law firms do not have a monopoly for transactional work in the Indian market, think again. The people who run these firms are all highly connected individuals and they are not shy to use those connections. You see the same firms on the top Indian deals (be it M&A, Capital Markets or Banking/Finance). If that is not a monopoly, what is?

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  • Encouraging to see the debate evolve, Posters 5 and 6 (who has elaborated on a point I made on another forum about the definition of 'Law' in the Advocates Act) really go to the crux of the issue, and highlight the obfuscation and misconceptions that our Indian spin-doctors love to create.

    Poster 5, I agree with you wholeheartedly - let clients decide what they want - surely they'd choose 'choice' over 'monopoly'.

    Poster 6, you are exactly right - Foreign firms will practice foreign law with foreign lawyers, alongside Indian law with Indian qualified lawyers.

    'Law' in the Advocates Act cannot mean anything other than Indian law and I see no logical or legal impediment to prevent foreign lawyers practicing foreign law and Indian lawyers practicing Indian law under the same roof and in the same firm in India.

    And Poster 1, you might be surprised that I'm an Indian and I have a great deal more experience of the Indian legal market than you may well think. As In-house counsel in Bombay, I use Indian law firms on an almost daily basis. I must say, I do miss the quality, attention to detail and general value-add I had while working overseas.

    As for Monopoly, what would a Bombay board's equivalent of Mayfair be? Marine Drive, Cuff Parade or Peddar Road?

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  • The law society of England & Wales have a selling line to Indian officials in New Delhi that foreign lwa firms DON'T want to practice Indian law and therefore sould be allowed to practice in Indian. All very nice. Then why do UK law firms bid for work from public sector undertakings even when the work is wholly Indian and rupee financed? There is no value addition except an english accent my friend.

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  • At the above poster, cutting and pasting your views from another website is hardly original. As for pitching to Public Sector Undertakings, you're probably aware that any disinvestment or offer of securities to foreign institutional investors or otherwise, will require foreign counsel. Why not have them sitting in Delhi instead of Singapore, Dubai, London or New York?

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  • On a recent trip to India I met with some of the leading law firms and each lawyer I met (all young, recently made up Partners) was somewhat embarrassed about this situation and completely unable to justify it.
    It is market protection - that's all there is to it. Client service or needs don't come into this at all. The Indian legal profession has a lot of political clout and they use it well...altough ironically only the larger law firms actually benefit from this, since a non-Indian law firm is hardly likely to compete with Indian lawyers for the morass of Indian litigation work.
    On the upside, some Indian clients have realised that there is better quality service to be obtained outside India and we are seeing the effects of that. Some forms, of course, have hired Indian-qualified lawyers to service their Indian clients outside India.

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