In March key members of India's legal community converged in London on the invitation of the Law Society of England and Wales. The Society made its aim clear: it wanted to convince India's government to lift its ban on foreign attorneys practicing in India. As late as the end of August, the Press Trust of India reported India's government was discussing the matter with India's legal community, which opposes liberalization out of fear that Indian firms will lose business to large international firms.
Experts vary on when the Indian market will open, but pressure from countries with business interests in India makes the move imminent. Until the market opens foreign companies operating in India are limited to using domestic Indian attorneys as outside counsel.
"It's a hot market right now and lots of companies are requiring Indian legal advice," Shum says. "One of the challenges is getting attorneys to provide the advice as quickly as you want them to. It's important to establish a relationship with certain lawyers and use that relationship to hopefully get the advice sooner rather than later."
U.S. companies also have to get used to a new business and legal culture. "Indian lawyers can be hesitant in giving firm advice on occasion," says Akil Hirani, managing partner in Majmudar & Co., an Indian firm that has worked with businesses such as GE, J.P. Morgan and Microsoft. "American companies seek clear answers, while in India law and regulations tend to be nebulous at times, and clear answers are not always available."