Britain’s multibillion-pound legal profession is about to profit from a landmark change in India that will allow foreign law firms to set up shop there for the first time.
Senior Indian ministers told a City of London delegation led by the Lord Mayor this week that they would push through a parliamentary Bill allowing foreign firms to set up local operations by the end of the year.
Stuart Popham, the senior partner of Clifford Chance, the largest law firm in the world, which has annual revenues in excess of £1 billion, told The Times that a relaxation of the foreign lawyer rules would prompt him to act as soon as possible to establish a presence in India. Bombay has fast become a huge financial centre, where most of the world’s big investment banks have a presence. Opening the market-place to foreign law firms would accelerate its transformation into a global trading hub.
The Indian Government estimates that it must spend $320 billion (£160 billion) on infrastructure in the next five years to sustain economic growth of about 9 per cent a year. Analysts put the figure closer to $500 billion. These projects, mainly private-public partnerships, will require legal servicing but at present they are off limits to foreign lawyers on the ground in India, thanks to the Advocates Act, a 45-year-old law that restricts the profession to Indian advocates.