Two of India’s oldest firms, Fox Mandal and Little & Co, recently merged to create India’s largest legal practice, Fox Mandal Little. Fox Mandal’s international practice head Som Mandal explains: “The economy in India is booming and there’s still a lot of scope for growth.”
Despite the 1996 ban on international firms operating in India, resulting in firms such as Ashurst and White & Case having to give up their liaison offices, Fox Mandal is so confident of India’s potential as an increasing hub of legal activity that the firm recently petitioned the Indian government to open up the country’s legal market to foreign law firms.
Mandal says that, although the petition’s aim is not to leave the Indian legal market “totally open” to foreigners, the government has “allowed other foreign companies such as accountants to open, so why not law firms?”
Mandal adds that, in the first instance, the Indian government should look at the UK and Singapore systems of regulating international firms as potential models for India. Although the government has not yet given any feedback on the petition, Mandal tells The Lawyer that it had received substantial press coverage in India, which he believes should help kickstart a liberalisation bandwagon.
In China it is not just foreign law firms that are reaping the rewards of government deregulation (however slow that deregulation may be), Chinese law firms are also benefiting from liberalisation.
One of Slaughter and May‘s three Chinese allies, Beijing-based Jun He Law Offices, which recently worked alongside international firms such as Allen & Overy, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Shearman & Sterling on the $9.7bn (£5.18bn) IPO of the Bank of China, has completed a merger with Hong Kong firm XJ Wang & Co, making it the third mainland China law firm to open in Hong Kong. It will operate in Hong Kong under the Jun He name.