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Bar Council of India allows entry of foreign lawyers and law firms: What can Indian lawyers do to level the playing field?

/ / Bar Council of India allows entry of foreign lawyers and law firms: What can Indian lawyers do to level the playing field?

The recent & surprising decision by the Bar Council of India to permit foreign law firms to operate in India is a significant development for the legal industry in the country. It is likely to shake things up in the Indian legal landscape for sure.

The move will open doors to new players and competition, and Indian law firms must be prepared to adapt and compete effectively in front of global players. But, there are some things that Indian firms, teams and lawyer can do to adapt to this change, and level the playing field:

Embrace Technology: This is one of the best ways for Indian law firms to prepare for competition and bridge the gaps in the way of working. Tech adaptability is probably the biggest differentiator between Indian firms & global ones. Technology can help improve efficiency, productivity, and communication within the law firm. Products like Mike DocReview, and MikeIP Suite not only enable automation but helps move away from the ‘traditional way of working’ to a more up-to-date manner. Lawyers globally outsource or ‘delegate’ their routine tasks, management of documents, tracking deadlines, and streamlining processes, to LegalTech products. The time and bandwidth gained is then dedicated to research, drafting, collaborating & networking. It also gives lawyers a chance to enhance their client services by offering online consultations, video conferencing, and other digital solutions.

Expand Areas of Practice: Another way for Indian law firms to prepare for competition is by expanding their areas of practice. With foreign law firms entering the Indian market, it is crucial to broaden the range of services offered to clients. Law firms can consider adding new practice areas such as Intellectual Property, International Trade, Arbitration, and Mediation to name a few.

Build Strong Client Relationships: Strong client relationships are vital for any law firm. It is essential to understand the client’s needs and offer personalized services to meet their requirements. Law firms must prioritize client satisfaction by providing timely updates, clear communication, and transparent billing practices. This is another area where tech is a boon. LegalTech products enabling automation can help lawyers stay ahead of the committed timelines, and provide updates in a timely manner. Additionally, offering pro-bono services can be an effective way to build market & client goodwill and strengthen client relationships.

Invest in Professional Development: Law firms must invest in the professional development of their lawyers and staff to stay ahead of the curve. Training and development programs can help improve legal skills, technical knowledge, and soft skills such as communication and leadership. Law firms can also encourage lawyers to participate in industry events, conferences, and seminars to keep up with the latest trends and developments.

Collaborate and Network: Collaboration and networking are probably the most powerful but underrated tools for Indian law firms to prepare for competition. By collaborating with other law firms or legal professionals, Indian law firms can expand their reach and expertise. Networking can help law firms build relationships with potential clients and industry peers. Attending industry events, joining legal associations, and engaging with online legal communities are some ways to network effectively.

As an endnote, I would only like to add another perspective to this ‘news’. The only way one survives and thrives in any change or challenge is by acceptance of reality, and shortcomings and the openness to adapt and take steps in the direction that only takes you upwards. Investing in tech is one step, that can make a world of a difference here. We may differ in our ways of work, standards and ethics, but the commonality that binds all lawyers is the diligence needed to get the best outcomes for their clients. Whether this change is a boon or a bane for you, depends on your perception and action or even inaction. But, the one thing that is for sure is, that it’s time for the Indian legal industry to step out of its bubble.  So rather than eye-rolling, so shrugging this off as – oh this doesn’t affect me, let’s just open up a bit and accept that this indeed is happening for real, and are we prepared?

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