Allen & Overy is touting a survey it commissioned which shows overwhelming support for liberalization of the Indian legal market among businessmen and lawyers in that country.
 
Research group YouGov polled 100 “C-level” executives of Indian companies, 100 general counsels, and 101 partners and associates at top Indian law firms. Some 96 percent of those polled said the Indian legal market should be liberalized. Moreover, 79 percent believe the Indian market should be opened completely to allow foreign firms to practice Indian law and merge with Indian firms.
 
Currently, foreign law firms are barred from even having offices in India. In many other Asian countries where international firms do have offices, such as China, they are barred from practicing local law.
 
According to the survey, 71 percent of both executives and general counsels think opening the Indian legal market will make their companies more globally competitive. Some 89 percent of all respondents also thought liberalization would create more career opportunities for Indian lawyers.
 
International law firms have been pushing for an opening of the Indian market for over a decade. But, while there have been some positive signs over the years and despite persistent lobbying from the U.K. government in particular, most lawyers active in the market agree there is currently zero momentum on the issue.
 
Allen & Overy, which has an alliance with Indian law firm Trilegal, undoubtedly hopes to change that.
 
“The possibly surprising outcome of this research is the large level of agreement among the major stakeholders in the liberalization debate in India,” Jonathan Brayne, the firm’s India practice head, said in a statement. “They believe liberalization should happen, that it will have a positive impact and that it should happen sooner rather than later.”
 
Large majorities of those surveyed did agree that liberalization should be conditional on other reforms affecting legal practice in India, including allowing Indian law firms to practice as limited liability partnerships and to market themselves.
 
Some high-profile opponents of liberalization like Cyril and Shardul Shroff, co-managing partners of India’s largest firm Amarchand & Mangaldas & Suresh A. Shroff, have said they would be supportive if such restrictions on domestic Indian firms were lifted. Amarchand’s efforts to restructure itself to retain market leadership in the face of an eventual market opening were the subject of a recent Asian Lawyer feature.
 
Email: lmok@alm.com