The government has started discussions with the Bar Council of India and other stake holders to open up legal services sector to foreigners in a calibrated manner, Commerce Secretary Rajeev Kher said today.
"We have taken a note on legal services to Committee of Secretaries (CoS). The CoS will talk about it shortly," Kher told reporters here.
The discussions, he said, are also going on with the Society for Indian Law Firms (SILF), a representative body of corporate law firms.
He added that they are broadly converging on the idea that there is a need to open up the sector in a calibrated manner.
"There is a need to bring in certain amount of competition in the sector. But the area of litigation will not be opened up," said the Secretary, who is retiring tomorrow.
An industry expert said the issue to open areas such as advisory, consultation and drafting of agreements for foreigners in domestic legal services sector is under discussion but these are sensitive matters and may take a long time to implement.
The UK and the US have been pushing India to open up the sector to foreign firms.
The Advocates Act, which is administered by the BCI, provides for foreign lawyers or law firms to visit India on a reciprocatory basis for temporary periods to advise their clients on foreign law and diverse international legal issues.
SILF President Lalit Bhasin said the government has initiated the process and a meeting was held in January.
"We have suggested that the foreign law firms should be allowed in phased manners, which would take 5 to 7 years," Bhasin told PTI.
He also said that Indian law firms should be allowed to avail basic quality services by liberalising the norms of Bar Council of India and others.
They should be allowed to have their own website, brochure and do advertisement, Bhasin said adding only then after the government should permit foreign law firms.