Indian reforms are good news for UK lawyers

The recent election result in India is an encouraging sign for legal services in the country.

The new Congress government has announced its intention to accelerate its economic reform efforts, with reference to the insurance, banking and retail sectors. Although this mooted reform programme does not yet mention law, continuing positive economic change can only benefit lawyers, whether in India or elsewhere.

No one who observed the massive surge in the Bombay Stock Exchange following the election outcome can be in any doubt that international interest and confidence in the Indian economy is inextricably linked to reform. It is a well-worn fact that India has identified a requirement for around $500bn (£312.19bn) of infrastructure investment over the next eight years or so and that this will almost certainly need to come from outside the country.

So the recent political events have set up the possibility of a virtuous circle for the government: increasing engagement with the outside world in hitherto closed sectors will help to attract investment, as shown by the Bombay Stock Exchange Sensitive Index (Sensex) rise, and generate the funding needed to improve India’s infrastructure, thereby making it even more attractive for international business, which will in turn help to create jobs. If distribution and logistics infrastructure is improved through infrastructure ­investment, this could improve prospects for the rural poor and make the politics around further economic reform easier.

The extraordinary rise of India is the reason why the Law Society is hosting an event between 1 and 5 June to link up visiting Indian law firms of all sizes and from a range of Indian cities with their UK counterparts. The Indian economy’s growth is not only of interest to UK firms with clients interested in investing in India, it is also producing Indian businesses that are active in the global marketplace and looking for opportunities to expand into Europe, such as Tata, Airtel and Infosys. And beneath these goliaths there are many smaller entrepreneurs and investors building on the ties between the UK and India, which can help Indian and UK-based lawyers benefit from establishing closer working relationships.  

As well as providing ‘matchmaking’ opportunities, the event will also highlight some of the key changes of which lawyers engaged with India need to be aware. Regardless of how quickly or slowly the new government decides to move towards legal liberalisation, there are changes afoot that will impact on the Indian legal sector and those who wish to engage with it. These changes will be driven partly by the LLP Act, which was passed at the end of 2008, but also by changing policy within Bar Council of India on issues such as advertising and websites. The Law Society conference will give an update on these and more general topics, but even more radical changes in India such as the new Competition Act. We will also hear from the European Commission about the prospects for an EU-India free trade agreement and about opportunities for lawyers arising from this. Speakers at the conference will include representatives of the UK Government, the Bar Council of India, the Commission, in-house counsel and practising lawyers from the UK and India.

Following the conference and ­matchmaking session in London, ­seminars and networking events for the visiting lawyers will be held in Manchester and Birmingham. This event, which we hope will become an established part of the legal calendar, will contribute to the work that the Law Society has been undertaking together with the UK and Indian governments, the Bar Council of India and individual law firms to create opportunities for all out of India’s extraordinary economic success story.