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Interview Of The Month  

This month, India Law Journal spoke to Mr. Lalit  Bhasin, Managing Partner, Bhasin & Co. and President of the Society of Indian Law Firms and discussed with him his views on various topical issues which are being debated about in the legal services sector in India.

There has been mounting pressure from members of the WTO for opening of the legal services sector in India. On the other hand, there has been a strong apprehension of the Bar Association of India and particularly the Bar Council of India in permitting foreign law firms to enter India as according to them, it may lead to the shrinking of opportunities available to the domestic lawyers. What is your opinion on this?

Ans: The Bar Council of India has taken the correct stance in its categorical opposition to foreign law firms in India and I fully support the Bar Council on this score. Any action of the government to open the legal services sector to outside lawyers without the full involvement of the Indian legal community is a retrograde step. The government should reconsider its stance. After all, why should the legal profession be different than the judiciary or the administrative service, two sectors which the government would never open to foreign participation on the specious grounds that Indians do not have the same level of expertise as non-Indians? Indian lawyers deserve the same level of respect.

Ques: If Indian laws are made flexible and if after a certain point of time, Indian law firms are in a position to compete then would you welcome the opening up of legal services sector to foreign firms?

Ans: No. Indian law firms are well equipped to help government and private sector to enhance foreign investment and to create a favourable environment for foreign investors. Indian law firms in particular over the last few years, have displayed youthful dynamism by re-inventing themselves to provide cutting edge legal advice. If foreign help is sought, Indian law firms can always take their advice as leading law firms in different jurisdictions have worked with Indian lawyers and firms who have several cross-country transactions in the fields of international commercial and financial law to their credit.

Ques: With more law students now opting for white collar jobs after graduation, donít you feel that this will lead to a decline in the number of lawyers joining litigation?

Ans: No. This will definitely not lead to a decline in the number of lawyers joining litigation. Though most of the graduates who pass out of the national law schools and other law schools, which specially offer the five year integrated degree, join corporate law firms both in India and abroad, the majority of the 800,000 lawyers in the country (India has the second largest number of lawyers in the world) are from districts and not metropolitan cities and they generally join litigation as they normally practice in the district courts. The scope of corporate law is not very wide in these districts as compared to the metropolitan cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Bangalore etc.

Ques: What are your views on the move to introduce limited liability partnership (LLPs) in the country?

Ans: Yes. It will be a very positive step by the government to introduce LLPs in the country. Development of the legal profession in India has been restricted on the account of a number of impediments in the current regulatory system which hinders Indian law firms from competing effectively against foreign law firms. Thus with the introduction of LLPs in the country, the growth of the legal services sector will definitely increase especially now that moves are being made by the government to increase the number of partners to more than 20.

Ques:  According to you, should legal advertisements be allowed in India?

In India, currently as per the Advocates Act and the rules and regulations of the Bar Council of India, lawyers are prohibited to advertise their services. Lawyers cannot solicit clients and cannot do anything that might influence the decision of a litigant from engaging one or the other lawyer. But as long as these so called “legal advertisements” spread legal awareness, they cannot be barred. Rather I would say that legal advertisements are not advertisements but merely act as a source of information to assist the common man so that he knows what legal assistance he can be offered in different circumstances. Thus legal advertisements should not be banned but should be allowed.

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