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Global law companies eye informal tie-ups in India
April, 05th 2008

Global law majors such as Allen & Overy, Jones Day, Linklaters and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer amongst others are looking at establishing presence in India.

With stringent regulatory guidelines and the Bar Council of India prohibiting any kind of joint ventures between foreign and Indian law firms, these entities are increasingly getting into informal tie-ups with mid-sized firms in India to understand the market.

London-based international law firm Allen & Overy has recently got into a client referral relationship with TriLegal Partners, wherein both parties will refer work to each other when there is a demand for India-related advice from international clients. We have got into a non-exclusive referral arrangement with the UK law major.

The purpose is to improve our technology and service, TriLegal partner Anand Prasad, told ET. However, the tie-up does not include any profit-sharing arrangement, meaning it is not in breach of Indias ban on foreign law firms practising in India. The tie-up between the two firms includes joint training and a joint marketing initiative.

These tie-ups in the form of client referral arrangements are increasingly gaining prominence in the legal fraternity in India. Delhi-based P&A Law offices have close ties with US leader Jones Day, while Linklaters has drawn up a referral arrangement contract with Talwar Thakore & Associates. Freshfields is likely to strike an informal deal with Mumbai-based husband-and-wife pair MP and Alka Barucha. Says P&A Law offices partner Anand Pathak: Foreign law firms are looking out for local councils to assist them on Indian law while working on India-related projects.

However, according to industry experts, foreign law firms are increasingly seeking to position themselves ahead of any possible future liberalisation of the Indian legal market. Says Dhir & Dhir Associates partner Alok Dhir: Once the Bar Council opens the floodgates to global majors to foray into India, the tie-ups between foreign and Indian law firms would be leveraged. Liberalisation has been promised by the Indian government but so far it is fiercely opposed by some of the corporate equity partners and practitioner litigators.

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