U.S.-India Working Group on Trade in Legal Services

There’s a small piece in the Globe and Mail today on the fact that the United States and India, which founded a Trade Policy Forum nearly two years ago, have agreed that they will constitute a working group of legal experts from each country to “facilitate trade in legal services.” Daily India has this quote from U.S. Trade Representative Karan Bhatia:

“Legal services are integral to today’s complex, global economy. Indian Commerce Secretary Gopal Pillai and I agreed that establishing a Legal Services Working Group is a priority in our bilateral dialogue,’ said Bhatia.’We are pleased that we have been able to move forward with the creation of the Working Group before the end of this year.’

The Working Group will be comprised of prominent legal professionals, including representatives of US and Indian law firms, the American Bar Association and the Bar Council of India.

I’ve been unable to find any more about the makeup of the group, or what its mandate might be specifically. Canada and India have recently constructed a “business portal” on the web, but there’s no mention of legal services among the trade sectors discussed there.


  1. This really is a two way issue. It’s rankled with the western firms that they’ve been unable to open branch offices in Delhi and Mumbai, although there are links between Jones Day and Baker McKenzie.

    The Hindu (our paper in Chennai) explains:

    Several American firms are already getting back office and research work done in India, though lawyers from either country are not currently allowed to practice in the other. The United States has a substantial number of Indian American lawyers who have been pressing that they be allowed to argue cases in the Indian courts.

    The question is often raised during visits of Indian Ministers to the United States who generally stress on reciprocity which, they concede, is a complex and difficult issue to resolve.

    Look at the value of exports:
    The US legal services sector currently employs 1.2 million highly educated professionals, and US law firms are strongly competitive globally. During the last decade, US cross-border exports of legal services more than doubled, reaching $3.4 billion in 2003, which is $2.5 billion more than imports. In 2002, US exports of legal services through foreign affiliates, or commercial presence abroad, were $1 billion.

    In this, the US lags England, because the English group has started working:

    The Legal Services working group will build upon a recent dialogue held in Chennai during the Lord Mayor’s visit to India. The Chennai roundtable highlighted the need for more dialogue between India and UK and wider engagement of those affected. This working group meeting will discuss the potential frameworks for opening the Indian legal services market.

    As the Law Society explains:

    1. On the bilateral front there have also been a number of important developments.

    a) Priority Countries India
    1. Over the summer period the Law Society has been involved in ongoing work on India with interested UK law firms to design possible options for the opening up of the Indian legal services market. Given the critical stage which negotiations with India have reached and how they are expected to develop in the autumn, the Society will be holding a meeting in October for senior representatives from the major law firms interested in India to discuss strategy for the next 6-12 months. The Head of International visited India to get an idea from some of the main players about the shape of a possible deal, if one was to be achievable.

    2. The Law Society has been very engaged on market opening in India. We sent representation to the EU-India Summit in Helsinki and were involved in the UK-India Investment Summit in London in mid-October. On 20 October, the President held a consultative meeting for the top 25 English law firms with an interest in India. This followed the announcement that the European Union will also launch free trade negotiations with India in 2007, which are likely to include legal services. Preparations are now underway for the next round of official talks due to take place in India in mid-January in the margins of the visit of the Secretary of State of Trade and Industry.