The liberalization drives in both the India and Singapore legal markets are in danger of running out of steam, with new obstacles emerging in both jurisdictions.
In Singapore international firms are braced for a disappointing outcome to the government’s long-awaited review of its joint venture (JV) model, which forces foreign firms to link up with Singapore outfits to practice local law.It is feared that the rules will only be changed slightly, representing a blow to top U.K. firms as they say the JV model is unsatisfactory. The results of the review, being overseen by the attorney general, Justice Rajah, were expected as Legal Week went to press.Meanwhile, talks to liberalize India’s legal market also appear to have run into difficulty after proposals sent out to local firms last month were met with a negative response. It is understood the plans considered allowing foreign firms to open in the country, but not to practice local law for a number of years.It is believed that if a deal is not cut before India’s general election — which is slated for as early as mid-2008 — reform could be delayed indefinitely.Indian firm Luthra & Luthra’s founding partner, Rajiv Luthra, said: “We need to level the playing field before this happens. How can an Indian firm, which can only grow to a limited size and is not permitted to advertise, hope to compete with a large international firm?”