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Detailed plans for when the Indian legal market will become open to foreign firms are expected to be drawn up before the end of this year, The Law Society of England and Wales has told Legal Week.

Currently the organization is in discussions with parties in India to develop a phased process for opening the market to foreign firms.

Liberalization of the Indian legal market has been on the agenda for decades but was given renewed momentum in November 2015 when the U.K. and Indian industry bodies started drawing up detailed plans. Then in January George Osborne and Indian finance minister Arun Jaitley struck an agreement that India would “press ahead with liberalizing” its legal market.

Both partners within India and The Law Society have referenced phased liberalization processes in Singapore and South Korea as examples of potential models.

Ashurst’s India practice head, Richard Gubbins added that a senior Indian minister had outlined a “three stage liberalization process” to him.

He said under this provisional plan disputes and arbitration would be the first area opened up to foreign firms, followed by commercial law and then subsequently followed by arrangements to let foreign firms set up offices in India.

The first phase of liberalization is set to center on disputes rather than the transactional side of the industry because Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is keen to change the perception of India as an “inefficient conflict resolution and disputes hub”, according to local sources.

Indian Law Partners – Ashurst’s best friend firm in India – partner Kiran Desia said: “There is a very imminent announcement of an international arbitration center being set up in Mumbai and that is very likely to happen immediately.”

The Law Society – alongside the Bar Council of England and Wales – is currently working to finalize a memorandum of understanding with the India Bar Council and other industry representatives, which it started drawing up in November.

Speaking to Legal Week, The Law Society’s international policy adviser for Southeast Asia, Gerwin De Boer, said that prior to liberalization the Indian authorities were keen to loosen current domestic regulations affecting Indian law firms, such as a ban on advertising and limits to partnership numbers.

Head of City and international at The Law Society – and ex-Allen & Overy partner – Stephen Denyer said there was no huge pressure to rush through a plan. “We don’t want the Indians to rush through liberalization only to then find out that the new rules and regulations are not practical, don’t benefit the Indian legal profession or foreign legal profession,” he said. “If they need more time or another year or so to sort this out then it isn’t a problem at all.”

De Boer added that getting widespread industry support for a plan was tricky due to the large and diverse stakeholders involved. He said: “This will change the legal landscape in India so they [Indian Bar Council] are now reaching out to their partners, regional bars in India, state bars and government, to make sure all of the steps are documented, talked about and properly planned to make sure the India legal sector benefits from this.”

Denyer said: “The principle beneficiaries of all of this are Indian lawyers, especially younger Indian lawyers. Currently a great deal of Indian work goes out of India and flows abroad and young lawyers would be able to work in India for international firms.”

Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas managing partner Cyril Shroff said it was “time for a sensible and open conversation amongst all stakeholders” about liberalizing the legal market.

“It is imperative that if there has to be change, that it be comprehensive and orderly,” he said. “It is time to move to the next level of discussion. I would welcome an open conversation.”

Detailed plans for when the Indian legal market will become open to foreign firms are expected to be drawn up before the end of this year, The Law Society of England and Wales has told Legal Week.

Currently the organization is in discussions with parties in India to develop a phased process for opening the market to foreign firms.

Liberalization of the Indian legal market has been on the agenda for decades but was given renewed momentum in November 2015 when the U.K. and Indian industry bodies started drawing up detailed plans. Then in January George Osborne and Indian finance minister Arun Jaitley struck an agreement that India would “press ahead with liberalizing” its legal market.

Both partners within India and The Law Society have referenced phased liberalization processes in Singapore and South Korea as examples of potential models.

Ashurst ‘s India practice head, Richard Gubbins added that a senior Indian minister had outlined a “three stage liberalization process” to him.

He said under this provisional plan disputes and arbitration would be the first area opened up to foreign firms, followed by commercial law and then subsequently followed by arrangements to let foreign firms set up offices in India.

The first phase of liberalization is set to center on disputes rather than the transactional side of the industry because Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is keen to change the perception of India as an “inefficient conflict resolution and disputes hub”, according to local sources.

Indian Law Partners – Ashurst ‘s best friend firm in India – partner Kiran Desia said: “There is a very imminent announcement of an international arbitration center being set up in Mumbai and that is very likely to happen immediately.”

The Law Society – alongside the Bar Council of England and Wales – is currently working to finalize a memorandum of understanding with the India Bar Council and other industry representatives, which it started drawing up in November.

Speaking to Legal Week, The Law Society’s international policy adviser for Southeast Asia, Gerwin De Boer, said that prior to liberalization the Indian authorities were keen to loosen current domestic regulations affecting Indian law firms, such as a ban on advertising and limits to partnership numbers.

Head of City and international at The Law Society – and ex-Allen & Overy partner – Stephen Denyer said there was no huge pressure to rush through a plan. “We don’t want the Indians to rush through liberalization only to then find out that the new rules and regulations are not practical, don’t benefit the Indian legal profession or foreign legal profession,” he said. “If they need more time or another year or so to sort this out then it isn’t a problem at all.”

De Boer added that getting widespread industry support for a plan was tricky due to the large and diverse stakeholders involved. He said: “This will change the legal landscape in India so they [Indian Bar Council] are now reaching out to their partners, regional bars in India, state bars and government, to make sure all of the steps are documented, talked about and properly planned to make sure the India legal sector benefits from this.”

Denyer said: “The principle beneficiaries of all of this are Indian lawyers, especially younger Indian lawyers. Currently a great deal of Indian work goes out of India and flows abroad and young lawyers would be able to work in India for international firms.”

Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas managing partner Cyril Shroff said it was “time for a sensible and open conversation amongst all stakeholders” about liberalizing the legal market.

“It is imperative that if there has to be change, that it be comprehensive and orderly,” he said. “It is time to move to the next level of discussion. I would welcome an open conversation.”