India Bar Council softens stance on liberalisation

The UK-India Joint Economic and Trade Committee (Jetco) legal talks have made a dramatic breakthrough as India’s official legal body, the Bar Council of India, has joined negotiations on liberalisation.

Earlier this month (15-20 January), the UK Jetco legal team, which consists of the Law Society of England and Wales, Allen & Overy, Ashurst, Clifford Chance and Pinsent Masons, travelled to India in a bid to progress talks about the liberalisation of the Indian legal services market with its Indian counterpart.

Law Society head of international Alison Hook told The Lawyer: “The trip went better than we could have hoped for. We’re running a marathon but we’ve now crossed the starting line.”

The breakthrough in the trip came when the Bar Council of India joined the Jetco legal team.

Clifford Chance consultant Sir Thomas Legg, who chairs the UK Jetco legal team, told The Lawyer: “We’ve made progress. We’re now negotiating with an Indian team that includes the official body. The people we’re negotiating with are the people who really matter.”

During the trip the Law Society also signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Society of Indian Law Firms and the Bar Association of India.

“The MoU went down very well with our Indian counterparts. It talks about us working together and encouraging a better understanding,” Hook said.

Legg explained: “All we want is for English lawyers to be able to provide their services in India, as English lawyers.
The key message we have to reiterate is that we do not want to do advocacy court work, which is what the vast majority of Indian lawyers practise.”