SC: Foreign Law Firms and Lawyers cannot practice Law in India

Published on 14 Mar 2018 by Shivi

Foreign lawyers and law firms in India

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The much-debated issue regarding practising of foreign lawyers and law firms in India was settled on March 13 by the Supreme Court bench. The bench comprising of Justice A. K. Goel and Justice U. U. Lalit held that foreign advocates and law firms cannot practice law in India on a regular basis.

A foreign advocate can only practice law in India on a ‘fly in- fly out’ basis to advise their clients on the matter pertaining to international laws. Foreign lawyers can fly to India to deal with matters relating to international commercial arbitration proceedings. However, the lawyers and law firms visiting India for this purpose would be liable under the code of conduct and code of ethics applicable to lawyers practising in India.

The Bar Council of India and the Centre will have the power to make appropriate rules and regulations relating to the matter. The BCI can also extend its code of ethics to make it suitable for lawyers who visit India to deal with any matters for their clients. 

The SC bench highlighted that it was exclusively mentioned in the Advocates Act that only an advocate enrolled with the Bar Council can practice law in India, except in case any other law states otherwise.

The judgment also mentioned that practising law also included giving opinions, drafting instruments, and participation in conferences involving legal discussion, and only advocates enrolled with the Bar Council can undertake such activities in India.

The apex court expressed that there should be reciprocity in allowing Indian lawyers to practice abroad and the Central Government needs to clarify the laws relating to commercial litigation globally.


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