The Bar Council of India (BCI) has notified on 13 March 2023 rules regarding entry of foreign lawyers and law firms in India. The rules, christened the Bar Council of India Rules for Registration and Regulation of Foreign Lawyers and Foreign Law Firms in India, 2022, essentially allow foreign lawyers and law firms to practice in India in non-litigation areas.
Specifically, law practice in India is being opened up in the field of practice of foreign law; diverse international legal issues in non-litigious matters and in international arbitration cases. The foreign law firms are being allowed to assist “foreign clients”. They may undertake work for a person, firm, company, corporation, trust, society etc. who/which is having an address or principal office or head office in a foreign country in any international arbitration case which is conducted in India and in such arbitration case foreign law may or may not be involved.
All foreign lawyers are required to be registered with the Bar Council of India.
Exception has been created for Foreign Firms operating on ‘fly in and fly’ out basis. Registration with BCI is not mandatory for such foreign lawyers or foreign law firms who operate on a ‘fly in and fly out basis’ for the purpose of giving legal advice to the client in India regarding foreign law and on diverse international legal issues. Such foreign lawyer or foreign law firm who operate on ‘fly in and fly out basis’ do not maintain an office in India for the purpose of such practice and such practice in India for one or more periods does not, in aggregate, exceed 60 days in any period of 12 months.
Registered foreign law firms and lawyers can also:
- Open up law offices.
- Engage and procure legal expertise of one or more Indian advocates registered as foreign lawyers.
- Procure the legal expertise of any advocate enrolled with any State Bar Council in India on any subject relating to Indian laws.
- Enter into a partnership with one or more foreign lawyers or foreign law firms registered in India under these Rules.
BCI may also refuse to register any foreign lawyer or law firm if in the opinion of the Council, the number of Foreign Lawyers or Foreign Law Firms of any particular Foreign country registered in India is likely to become disproportionate to the number of Indian Lawyers or Indian Law Firms registered or allowed to practice law in the corresponding foreign country.
At the cost of repetition:
- Foreign lawyers and firms shall not be permitted to appear before any courts, tribunals or other statutory or regulatory authorities.
- They shall be allowed to practice on transactional work/corporate work such as joint ventures, mergers and acquisitions, intellectual property matters, drafting of contracts and other related matters on reciprocal basis.
- They shall not be involved or permitted to do any work pertaining to conveyancing of property, title investigation or other similar work.
- They may do work, transact business, give advice and opinion concerning the laws of the country of primary qualification.
- They may provide legal advice and appear as a lawyer for a person, firm, company, corporation, trust, society etc which has an address in a foreign country in any international arbitration case which is conducted in India and in such arbitration case where foreign law may or may not be involved
- They may provide legal advice and appear as a lawyer before bodies other than courts, tribunals, boards, statutory authorities who are not legally entitled to take evidence on oath, in which knowledge of foreign law of the country of primary qualification is essential.
- They may provide legal advice concerning the laws of the country of primary qualification and on diverse international legal issues. This shall not include representation or the preparation of documents regarding procedures before an Indian court, tribunal or any other authority competent to record evidence on oath.
- An advocate enrolled with any State Bar Council in India and who is a partner or associate in any foreign law firm can only take up non-litigious matters and advise on laws of countries other than India.
As with any rule/regulation, there are certain open areas under these rules as well. However, we have not editorialised on those here. Those may be a topic of more granular discussions, should the need arise.
From the research desk at Aureus Law Partners. Queries may be addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org.