India has the potential to be one of the premier countries for legal practice and legal education, said Professor David B Wilkins of Harvard Law School. The Indian bar, therefore, should not be afraid of competing with lawyers from around the world, both here in India and abroad, he said. Wilkins, Vice Dean, Harvard Law School, who was here to deliver the convocation address of O P Jindal Global University, said that while regulatory barriers might have been necessary at a certain point to allow India’s commercial legal profession to develop, it is a mistake to believe that such restrictions can exclude competition from foreign lawyers in the long run.
Wilkins went on to say that the fears of many Indian lawyers about liberalising the legal market are likely to be exaggerated. “It is unlikely that many foreign law firms will want to set up offices in India,” 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 do, still be required to demonstrate that they have sufficient knowledge of Indian law and procedure, Wilkins said. “And for important cases before the Indian Supreme Court, it is very unlikely that any litigant foreign or domestic, would rather have an international lawyer than an experienced Indian Supreme Court Advocates such as Fali Nariman, Harish Salve, Kapil Sibal, Gopal Subramanium and Abhishek Manu Singhvi,” he added.
The law professor further added that finally, making India’s legal market more open would allow Indian lawyers to learn more from their foreign counterparts – and vice versa – while giving talented Indian lawyers more incentives to stay in the country. “Right now, far too many talented Indian lawyers leave the country to pursue opportunities with foreign law firms in Singapore, London and New York. It would be far better if these young women and men stayed in India and continued building the excellence of the Indian bar,” Wilkins noted. But in order to achieve these benefits, India will have to invest more in upgrading the quality of legal education in the country, he further said.