Recently, India informed the members of World Trade Organization WTO that the country’s legal services sector will be open for foreign law firms and lawyers only after consultation from the stakeholders like Bar Council of India BCI. Countries, which are ready to offer similar services to India’s law firms and lawyers will be able to avail the legal services from India’s legal services sector.
Cabinet Secretary will soon operate a Committee of Secretaries CoS and consider a Commerce Ministry plan to start the legal sector with non-arguable services. As, initially, the BCI and the Law Ministry did not support this proposal, final steps are yet to be taken. It was made clear to the members of the World Trade Organization that, even though the legal sector will be made operative, it will offer limited services to selected countries. Separate agreements will be negotiated with every country individually and legal services sector will be kept open only for the countries, which are willing to offer similar services in return.
As per the proposal set by the Committee of Secretaries, the legal sector would offer services like international arbitration, and mediation services. Non-litigious services in the third country law, home country law of foreign lawyer, and international law may also be allowed. Foreign lawyers will be allowed to participate or practice in India as joint ventures, in combination with the Indian lawyers, with a cap on all the foreign participants.
Meetings are being held by the Commerce Ministry with the Society for Indian Law Firms and the BCI members, to ensure that business of the local lawyers will not be affected by opening the legal services sector to foreign firms and lawyers. Trade policy of all the members is reviewed by the WTO after every two to six years on the basis of the quantity of trade every member does, trade policies, and economic performances.