This year all eyes are on India. Last month a number of UK firms travelled to India in a bid to progress talks about opening up its legal market to foreign law firms.
International law firms were forbidden from operating in India when in 1996 a group of lawyers in Mumbai made representations to the Indian High Court regarding the Advocates Act, which prevents foreign firms practising Indian law.
However, as 2006 turned into 2007, the assault by UK firms on the Indian market has continued unabated. While pundits have been kept guessing as to when exactly deregulation may take place, the future now looks more encouraging.
The UK-India Joint Economic and Trade Committee (Jetco), established in 2005, set up teams of both UK and Indian lawyers to progress talks about liberalising the Indian legal services market.
Law Society international head Alison Hook told The Lawyer: The trip went better than we could have hoped for. Were running a marathon, but weve now crossed the starting line.
Meanwhile, Clifford Chance has wasted no time in getting in on the India action. While rival magic circle firm Linklaters chose to ally itself with a local Indian firm, Clifford Chance partners travelled to New Delhi last November to recruit qualified Indian lawyers directly from the countrys capital.
Last month the firm made offers to a first group of qualified Indian lawyers. It interviewed around 25 candidates from Indian law schools and made job offers to around half of those applicants. Once admitted to the Indian bar, Indian lawyers can then sit the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Test in the UK.
Herbert Smith has copied Clifford Chances approach and will be heading to India in March to recruit directly out of Bangalore law schools.