Globalisation and the Indian Legal Sector

In what may perhaps be the first academic study in the field, Professor Jayanth Krishnan examines the issues that revolve around the opening up of the Indian legal sector to foreign law firms. In his paper Globetrotting Law Firms, which is the product of empirical study through fieldwork and interviews, Professor Krishnan comprehensively discusses various policy arguments and suggests some proposals for the way forward. The abstract is as follows:

Despite the current financial crisis, prestigious American and British law firms continue to maintain a presence in Continental Europe, Latin America, and China. Yet, in one economically fertile, democratic country – India – such global legal powerhouses are scarcely found.

This study seeks to understand empirically why there is a general absence of these and other foreign law firms practicing in India. Based on fieldwork and compiled interview data of lawyers, judges, government officials, activists, and clients from India, the United States, and Britain – the latter two being the foreign countries most interested in gaining access to the Indian legal market – I show that the conventional wisdom on this subject is inadequate, and that there are multiple layers to this debate. But as I also show, what makes this story so fascinating is how both supporters and opponents of foreign law firms in India have strategically coupled their policy arguments with potent symbolic rhetoric to champion their perspectives. The study concludes by outlining a set of preliminary proposals that would permit American, British, and other foreign law firms gradually to enter India but would also incorporate the concerns held by opponents and could serve as the foundation for reaching a comprehensive resolution.

About the author

Umakanth Varottil

Umakanth Varottil is an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore. He specializes in corporate law and governance, mergers and acquisitions and cross-border investments. Prior to his foray into academia, Umakanth was a partner at a pre-eminent law firm in India.

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