The Influence of Corporate Law Firms in Policy & Regulatory Change

The Harvard Law School Program for the Legal
Profession has posted a new paper titled Notes from
the Field: How India’s Corporate Law Firms are Influencing Her Legal, Policy
and Regulatory Frameworks
by Bhargavi Zaveri. The abstract of the paper is
as follows:

While the Indian legal
profession has been widely acclaimed for leading socio-political movements
during the country’s independence-era and for some years thereafter, it has
since been perceived as largely aloof from policy advocacy, and has been
accused of restricting its advocacy role to courtrooms. The litigating bar is
often applauded for limited policy outcomes achieved through what is known as
the ‘PIL’ route in India. On the other hand, the relatively small and nascent
corporate bar is often criticized for its lethargy in policy activism in its
specialized fields, let alone the general policy advocacy sphere. The influence
on law and policy that ‘Washington law firms’ exercise in the US, and the magic
circle law firms exercise in UK and the Eurozone have been extensively
documented by academia and the media. Subject to a few exceptions, the
successful Indian corporate bar is lesser known to possess these attributes.
The last decade has, however, witnessed a remarkable shift in this trend, with
corporate law firms in India taking a deeper interest in formulation and reform
of the country’s policy and legal frameworks in their areas of practice. By
increasingly showcasing ‘policy affairs’ in their suite of transactional and
advisory services, they are following the footsteps of their American and
British counterparts. Taking cue from these and other trends, this essay
hypothesizes that the current policy frameworks allow wide latitude for the
corporate legal services sector to influence policy formulation, implementation
and reform in India. Analyzing practices of law firms that are already using
these opportunities strategically, it proceeds to predict the implications of
these opportunities for India’s Big Law.

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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