Indian market moves closer to liberalisation

The influential All India Bar Association (AIBA) is set to recommend that the Indian government opens up its legal services market to foreign lawyers as India’s largest firm Fox Mandal Little revealed plans to launch in London.

The firm’s announcement coincides with the end of a week-long visit by the AIBA to the UK, a trip that has reassured the previously sceptical Indians that liberalisation is necessary.

Fox Mandal head of international practice Som Mandal told The Lawyer: “We also feel that, as we support the entry of foreign law firms into India, we need to be present elsewhere.”

The firm’s London office, which will open within the year, will service foreign clients looking to invest in India. It will be manned by lawyers from India who would practise Indian law exclusively. The AIBA is seeking a reciprocal agreement from the UK Government to establish more clarity for visa arrangements in respect of Indian lawyers who wish to practise in the UK.

AIBA chairman Adish Aggarwala told The Lawyer: “We want Indian lawyers to be on the same footing as UK lawyers. Indian lawyers should be able to do the same work in the UK that UK lawyers would be able to do in India.

“If such assurance comes from the UK Government, then I feel that we’ll 99 per cent be able to convince our lawyers to agree to let UK lawyers come to India.”

Aggarwala added that he now understood that UK lawyers did not want to practise litigation work in India and he would therefore not be opposed to their entry.

Law Society president Fiona Woolf, who invited the delegation to the UK, said: “The group now believes that it’s in India’s best interests to open up to foreign lawyers and it’s happy for the legal services market out there to open, with certain conditions.

“It’s another step on the road towards liberalisation, as the AIBA is an influential and important group in India.”