Globetrotting Law Firms
Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics, Vol. 23, 2010
50 Pages Posted: 30 Sep 2009 Last revised: 5 Jan 2010
Date Written: April 1, 2009
Despite the current financial crisis, prestigious American and British law firms continue to maintain a presence in Continental Europe, Latin America, and China. Yet, in one economically fertile, democratic country - India - such global legal powerhouses are scarcely found.
This study seeks to understand empirically why there is a general absence of these and other foreign law firms practicing in India. Based on fieldwork and compiled interview data of lawyers, judges, government officials, activists, and clients from India, the United States, and Britain - the latter two being the foreign countries most interested in gaining access to the Indian legal market - I show that the conventional wisdom on this subject is inadequate, and that there are multiple layers to this debate. But as I also show, what makes this story so fascinating is how both supporters and opponents of foreign law firms in India have strategically coupled their policy arguments with potent symbolic rhetoric to champion their perspectives. The study concludes by outlining a set of preliminary proposals that would permit American, British, and other foreign law firms gradually to enter India but would also incorporate the concerns held by opponents and could serve as the foundation for reaching a comprehensive resolution.
Keywords: Law Firms, Lawyers, India, Globalization
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