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Foreign law firms in India face obstacles

Posted by: Laurence Simons 25/01/13

The rush among global law firms to enter emerging markets, partly to offset the lack of profitability seen in many developed countries and partly because these regions look likely to outstrip their more high-profile counterparts in the coming years, has led to a great deal of competition in countries such as India.

However, the Law Gazette reports that the current restrictions on foreign lawyers practising in the country remain a major obstacle, preventing multinational legal corporations from stamping their authority on the market as much as they would like to.

Indian firms - playing the role of the boy who doesn't want to introduce his girlfriend to his brother because he thinks she'll fancy him more - are concerned that allowing untrammelled international access to the market will put them out of a job.

While there has certainly been piece-meal expansion in the Indian legal market over the last few decades, the country's legal businesses are concerned that they will not be able to compete with tall, dark and handsome global firms making eyes at their best clients.

Nankunda Katangaza, head of international policy at the Law Society of England and Wales, told the news provider that it has favoured liberalisation for a long time and gone through numerous negotiations with its Indian counterpart to try pushing through measures of this kind.

He added that the society is now taking a more collaborative approach in a bid to ensure its members can access the Indian market as easily as possible, even if they cannot establish themselves there completely.

With a recent study from PricewaterhouseCoopers indicating that India will be one of the emerging economies acting as a global powerhouse for growth over the next 40 years, it seems evident that the issue of how foreign firms fit into the country's legal spectrum will continue to pose problems in the future.