The Bar Council of India (BCI) has allowed foreign lawyers and law firms to practice foreign law, diverse international legal issues, and international arbitration matters in India and has notified the rules framed for the same.

The notification dated March 10, 2023, is titled “Bar Council of India Rules for Registration and Regulation of Foreign Lawyers and Foreign Law Firms in India, 2022”

BCI was initially opposing the entry of foreign lawyers and foreign law firms in India in any form. However, it was authorized by the legal fraternity of the country in the years 2007-2014.

Under the head ‘Objects and Reasons’, the notification says, “... the Bar Council of India is keen to progress on the idea of an MoU between the Bar Council of India, the Government of India (through Ministry of Law and Justice ) on one part and the Law Society of England and Wales, Government of U.K. , Bar Council of England and Wales, on the other. The U.K. Delegates have also assured the Bar Council of India that the Authorities in U.K. are also keen and interested in the means of collaboration, cooperation and joint practice between Indian advocates and UK lawyers. Time has come to take a call on the issue.”

As per the BCI, opening up a law practice in India to foreign lawyers in the field of practice of foreign law, diverse international legal issues in non-litigious matters, and in international arbitration cases would go a long way in helping the legal profession/domain grow in India to the benefit of lawyers in India too.

“It is noteworthy that the standards of Indian lawyers in proficiency in law is comparable with the international standards and the legal fraternity in India is not likely to suffer any disadvantage in case law practice in India is opened up to foreign lawyers in a restricted and well controlled and regulated manner on the principle of reciprocity as it would be mutually beneficial for lawyers from India and abroad and these Rules are an attempt by Bar Council of India in this direction”, says the notification.

It has been mentioned in the notification that such rules will help to address the concerns expressed about the flow of Foreign Direct Investment in the country and making India a hub of International Commercial Arbitration.

It has been further pointed out that, “In case, we sleep over the matter, the legal fraternity of India may be left behind in providing legal/professional expertise in accordance to the rule of law in a manner consistent with the best interests of this fast growing class of clients in India. Let us ensure than an opportunity for creating development and growth for legal profession and in the legal sphere in India is not lost.”

BCI has said that such rules will enable foreign lawyers and law firms to practice foreign law and diverse international law and international arbitration matters in India on the principle of reciprocity in a well-defined, regulated, and controlled manner.

The notification issued by the BCI consists of some important aspects such as the registration of foreign lawyers or law firms and the extent to which they can practice in India, applications for registration and its renewal, disciplinary issues and penalties, registration fee, etc.

Click here to read/download the notification