New Delhi: British law firm Clifford Chance Llp. on Wednesday said it will pool expertise with India-based AZB and Partners to offer services to clients of both the firms. This means if a client of Clifford Chance requires legal advice in India, AZB will provide it, and vice versa.
This is the second instance where foreign law firms, which are not allowed to practice in India, are striking innovative relationships with Indian counterparts. Allen and Overy, another British law firm, and Trilegal, an Indian law firm had done a similar tie-up last year, as reported in Mint on 21 February.
Clifford Chance global managing partner David Childs said that with the present restrictions on foreign firms, the two firms that have been referring clients to each other for about five years can’t do more than a “best friends” arrangement to share expertise and have training and secondments of lawyers across the firms. “We are very excited about this development. Our international clients will now have top quality Indian legal advice.”
Talking about the nature of the agreement, Ajay Bahl, managing partner of AZB, said that the agreement was “non-financial”. “There is no fee sharing. It is a ‘best friends’ agreement where the two firms that are well-known, respected and with complementary areas of practice will combine their experience and skill sets, train lawyers across firms and enjoy the information flow and make it available to both our clients.”
Bahl, Zia Mody, another managing partner at AZB , and Clifford Chance senior partner Stuart Popham said there was a possibility of expanding the scope of their agreement in the future once the Indian government lifts the ban on foreign firms practising law in India.
Popham pointed out that there were several developments last year favouring entry of foreign firms into India such as the enactment of a law allowing limited liability partnerships and the relaxing of the ban on online legal advertising. “But there has been no substantive development like a legislative or regulatory change by the government. This will not happen overnight,” Popham said.
Reacting to the tie-up, Lalit Bhasin, partner at law firm Bhasin and Co. and president of the Society of Indian Law Firms, an association of top law firms in the country, said: “With no movement from the government on this and no likelihood of the liberalization of the legal services sector soon, there is no choice but for Indian and foreign firms to forge such strategic alliances.”