Business of Law

ABA President Urges India Bar to Maintain Status Quo While It Debates Foreign Law Offices

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ABA President Stephen N. Zack is urging the Bar Council of India to maintain the status quo as it considers whether to allow foreign lawyers to establish law firms in the country.

Currently, U.S. lawyers may travel to India on an “in-and-out basis” to advise their clients on non-Indian laws. That “status quo” should be maintained as the Bar Council considers the broader issue of whether to allow the practice of law by foreign law firms in India, Zack says. The letter notes a report that the Bar Council of India plans to meet on Jan. 29 to consider the law firm issue. (Legally India reported the story earlier this week.)

“I understand that the Bar Council of India needs to evaluate fully, and adopt rules and regulations addressing, the broader issue of whether, for example, U.S. lawyers should be permitted to establish offices in India and give advice on the laws of their home countries and international law, which I hope you will adopt in the not too distant future,” Zack writes in the letter, addressed to Gopal Subramanium, chairman of the Bar Council of India.

“However, until such rules are adopted, I request the Bar Council of India to not alter the status quo.”

The letter notes that Indian lawyers frequently travel to the United States on a temporary basis to advise U.S. clients on Indian law without the need to register here. Some Indian lawyers have offices here, he writes, where they give advice on Indian law pursuant to the ABA’s Foreign Legal Consultant Rule, which has no requirement for exams or special training. Similarly, U.S. lawyers travel to India temporarily to advise on non-Indian laws.

“The ABA believes that allowing such activities is critical not only for the mutual benefit of the legal practitioners in both countries,” the letter says, “but also for fostering the vital and already close relationship between India and the United States and to promote the robust growth of trade and investments between our two countries. Allowing such activities is also essential in making India a preferred venue for international arbitration proceedings.”

Prior coverage: “ABA President Asks Obama to Push India to Allow Foreign Legal Offices”

ABA Journal: “Still Open for Business”

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