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Liberalising legal services will drive up standards
May, 09th 2008
Will bring in opportunities for Indian law graduates, says British MP

With the legal profession getting globalised, there is growing pressure to open up the sector in India. In the current economic scenario and the way the market is behaving, liberalising the legal services market will benefit India. It would not only drive up the standards of the profession but consumers will also get better services, according to Ms Bridget Prentice, Member of Parliament and the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice, UK.

She told Business Line here that if India does not open up the sector now the international legal services will go elsewhere.

Opening of the sector would bring in more opportunities for Indian lawyers who instead of being poached by the foreign firms can do business in their own country, she said.

Agreeing that there are some myths in the minds of those who are opposing the opening up of the legal sector in India, she said they need to be addressed.

India has been getting requests from several countries including the UK to liberalise the legal sector for foreign law firms.

Indias economic success is due to its well-educated labour force. The most successful sectors are in IT, telecom, pharmaceuticals, and media and all of it is open to outside influence. Law graduates are at a disadvantage, as there is lack of opportunities to develop their talent in the global legal services market, Ms Prentice said.

London firms

London is one of the most cosmopolitan legal service markets in the world and much of its strength lies in its diversity, she added.

There are now over 200 foreign law firms in London and their presence has helped London become an international centre for legal services. Indian lawyers working in England are able to practise any law in which they are qualified. They can open offices, employ English lawyers, solicit clients and advertise their services, she said.

There are excellent advocates and law firms in India, it will be very difficult to satisfy these ambitions without the highly specialised legal services expertise that international commerce and finance clients increasingly demand, Ms Prentice said.

Education synergies

As regards synergy in the education system as far as law is concerned, she said, There are some mismatches in qualifications.

The Law Society and Bar Council would look at that so that while maintaining the standards, a synergy can be created, she said.

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