The Indian Bar Council and government are considering proposals to enable domestic law firms to increase the size of their partnerships from 20 to 50.
Firms have been campaigning for this to be implemented for years. To date, they have sidestepped the rule by setting up other partnerships under different names.
The proposals are expected to be pushed through in legislation some time next year, ahead of the outcome of the World Trade Organization's Doha round of talks dealing with pro- fessional services. These include proposals for widening access for foreign professional services, including lawyers, to India and other regions. The talks are due to finish in 2005, although this issue is expected to be resolved before then.
Currently, the two Western firms with a presence in India, Ashurst Morris Crisp and Jones Day, can only operate liaison offices that serve as channels of communications between Indian clients and the firms' London offices.
Indian commercial law-yers recently unsuccessfully lobbied for the introduction of joint venture practices to plug the loss of Indian clients to rival jurisdictions such as Singapore. This would have allowed local firms to work with international practices.