Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Influence of Corporate Law Firms in Policy & Regulatory Change

The Harvard Law School Program for the Legal Profession has posted a new paper titled Notes from the Field: How India's Corporate Law Firms are Influencing Her Legal, Policy and Regulatory Frameworks by Bhargavi Zaveri. The abstract of the paper is as follows:

While the Indian legal profession has been widely acclaimed for leading socio-political movements during the country’s independence-era and for some years thereafter, it has since been perceived as largely aloof from policy advocacy, and has been accused of restricting its advocacy role to courtrooms. The litigating bar is often applauded for limited policy outcomes achieved through what is known as the 'PIL' route in India. On the other hand, the relatively small and nascent corporate bar is often criticized for its lethargy in policy activism in its specialized fields, let alone the general policy advocacy sphere. The influence on law and policy that 'Washington law firms' exercise in the US, and the magic circle law firms exercise in UK and the Eurozone have been extensively documented by academia and the media. Subject to a few exceptions, the successful Indian corporate bar is lesser known to possess these attributes. The last decade has, however, witnessed a remarkable shift in this trend, with corporate law firms in India taking a deeper interest in formulation and reform of the country’s policy and legal frameworks in their areas of practice. By increasingly showcasing 'policy affairs' in their suite of transactional and advisory services, they are following the footsteps of their American and British counterparts. Taking cue from these and other trends, this essay hypothesizes that the current policy frameworks allow wide latitude for the corporate legal services sector to influence policy formulation, implementation and reform in India. Analyzing practices of law firms that are already using these opportunities strategically, it proceeds to predict the implications of these opportunities for India’s Big Law.

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