Laurence Lieberman is a Partner at Taylor Wessing, a full-service international law firm specialising in Technology Media and Telecommunications (TMT), Life Science and Healthcare, Private Wealth, Real Estate, Infrastructure and Energy. Lieberman is also the Head of the firm's India group and regularly acts for Indian multinationals across sectors.
In this short interview with Bar & Bench's Pallavi Saluja, Lieberman talks about the mutual prospects that have opened up for both the Indian legal market and for foreign law firms in the wake of the decision of the Bar Council of India (BCI) to open up the Indian legal market.
What is your initial reaction to the BCI Rules allowing the entry of foreign law firms and finally opening up the Indian legal market?
It is a long overdue but encouraging development. We have been working with some great Indian lawyers for years, and this will only allow closer cooperation. For Indian companies, it will provide many benefits, as best practices of the international firms seep into the local profession more quickly.
How do you see this development for a law firm like yours?
Taylor Wessing has been working with Indian clients for nearly 15 years, across the life sciences, technology, automotive, real estate, financial services and manufacturing sectors. We see this as an acceleration of our business in India, bringing us closer to our clients on the ground. In international arbitration, where we act for many Indian companies, we see the biggest short to medium term opportunity to gain more market share as a result of the announcement.
If permitted, will it be a natural move for international firms to tie up with Indian firms so as to consolidate their presence here?
It is a step in that direction. The Rules require reciprocation in many areas, so there are some strategic decisions to be made by international firms on resourcing. The two big questions are:
(a) Whether international firms need more than the 60 days 'fly in fly out' to service their Indian clients, and whether a tie up with an Indian firm is necessary for that and;
(b) How can international and Indian firms work out a financial model that takes into account the different profitability levels? That said, inevitably there will be momentum for tie-ups and I expect that some international firms will be wanting to make a formal commitment in the near term.
Do you think there will be enough business in India for both domestic and international firms for the latter to invest heavily here in terms of manpower and infrastructure?
There is definitely enough work for further investment by international firms, but there needs to be a mindset shift in the Indian corporate community about the expertise, sector depth and value international firms bring, with the corresponding higher cost
Laurence Lieberman, Partner, Taylor Wessing
India is the world's largest democracy, and a strong and growing economy. Many multinationals are already in country and serviced by Indian firms. The BCI announcement is to me about the outbound opportunities. There is definitely enough work for further investment by international firms, but there needs to be a mindset shift in the Indian corporate community about the expertise, sector depth and value international firms bring, with the corresponding higher cost.
What will be your strategy in terms of acquiring Indian talent from domestic firms and from law schools?
This already happens, but I expect we will be receiving a lot more CVs from the best and brightest Indian graduates and law firm associates!