In a recent development, permission for foreign lawyers and law firms to practice law in India has been given by the Bar Council of India, which governs the code of conduct and rules for practicing law in the country.
The Bar Council of India’s Rules for Registration and Regulation of Foreign Lawyers and Foreign Law Firms in India, 2022, allow foreign lawyers and law firms to practice certain areas of law, such as transactional matters, corporate matters, joint ventures, mergers and acquisitions, intellectual property rights, and contractual matters, based on the principle of reciprocity.
Foreign law firms and lawyers have been prohibited from engaging in property conveyancing or criminal matters, as well as appearing before statutory or regulatory authorities, courts, and tribunals. These restrictions have limited the scope of work for foreign law firms, imposing a negative covenant on their practice.
A process and mechanism for registration of foreign law firms in India have also been drawn wherein it has been made mandatory for a foreign law firm or lawyer to register themselves with the Bar Council of India which shall be accompanied by the requisite documents and a fee of USD 50,000 in case of foreign law firms and USD 25,000 in case of individual lawyers. Moreover, the validity of the registration is five years post which a renewal application has to be filed by the foreign entities within six months with the Bar Council of India.
The rules framed by the Bar Council of India have also permitted them to regulate foreign law firms and lawyers. In case any complaint is received against any foreign lawyer or law firm, or the Bar Council has a reason to believe that there has been professional misconduct about the practice of law, or any violation of the rules framed by the BCI, the council can report the matter to the concerned disciplinary authority of the country.