Harvard Law School’s Vice Dean Professor David B Wilkins has stated that he believes India should become a hub for world class legal education and legal practice.
Because of this potential, Wilkins states that the Indian bar should not be afraid to compete with lawyers from around the world, both in India and abroad.
Whilst visiting India’s OP Jindal Global University, a recommended Indian ‘Institute of Eminence’, Wilkins commented that while regulatory barriers might have been necessary at a certain point to allow India’s legal education and commercial legal profession to develop, it is a mistake to believe that in the long run these restrictions can exclude competition from foreign lawyers.
Wilkins added: “Foreign lawyers have already made significant inroads in the Indian legal market through ‘fly-in-fly-out’ policies, and technology will only allow these existing inroads to grow.
“As a result, it is better for the Indian bar to meet the competition head on, especially given the significant increase in the capabilities of Indian law firms over the last several years.”
Indian lawyers needn’t worry about foreign law firms in India
Wilkins also added that the fears of many Indian lawyers about liberalising the legal market are likely to be exaggerated. “It is unlikely that may foreign law firms will want to set up offices in Indian,” Wilkins noted, “and those that do will only practice commercial law.”
Foreign lawyers will have little incentive to appear before Indian courts, and those who can will still be required to demonstrate that they have sufficient knowledge of Indian law and procedure.
Wilkins added: “And for important cases before the Indian Supreme Court, it is very unlikely that any litigant, foreign or domestic, would rather an international lawyer than an experienced Indian Supreme Court Advocate such as Fali Nariman, Harish Salve, Kapil Sibal, Gopal Subramanium and Abhishek Manu Singhvi.”
The Harvard Law professor concluded that making Indian’s legal market more open, Indian lawyers would be able to learn from their foreign counterparts – and vice-versa – while also giving talented Indian lawyers a greater incentive to remain in the country.
Many talented Indian lawyers leave India to pursue career opportunities with firms in Singapore, London and New York and it would be better if they remained in India. However, in order to achieve these benefits, India needs to invest in upgrading the quality of their legal education.
Hari is the Managing Editor of Global Education Times. Hari has clocked nearly a decade working as a communications professional with a focus on the education sector. He has also had stints in journalism and advertising in a career which has seen him live, study, and work, in three countries.
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