One of the world's largest law firms, UK-based Clifford Chance, has tied up with India's AZB & Partners in a "best friend's agreement". The agreement involves both the firms providing their legal expertise to each others clients in their respective markets. Foreign law firms are not allowed to practice in India, however, there is not bar in getting into "referral tie-ups" such as this.

Clifford Chance has an extensive India practice, which has over 195 members spread across over 16 offices in 12 countries. The British law firm had last year hired Rahul Guptan, a senior partner from law firm Amarchand Mangaldas.

"It is an increasing challenge for both Indian and international clients seeking cross-border advice that they still have to look outside the country to access the requisite experience, resources and expertise. This arrangement will allow our two firms to offer the best possible service within the current regulatory restrictions," said Stuart Popham, a senior partner at Clifford Chance.

The magic circle law firms of UK, referring to the five or six top law firms (mainly solicitors) in the UK such as - Allen & Overy, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Linklaters and Slaughter & May - are increasingly looking at India. Early last year, Allen and Overy and India's Trilegal had done a similar "best friends agreement." Late last year, Linklaters signed up Vinod Dhall, former chairman of Competition Commission of India, in a similar agreement.

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