International jurisdictions should have nothing to fear from opening their legal borders to English and Welsh lawyers, a leading City figure has said.
Alasdair Douglas (pictured), chairman of the City of London Law Society, said the current opposition of countries such as India to allowing in foreign lawyers could be seen as ‘anti-competitive’.
Speaking at a roundtable event at the International Bar Association conference in Boston yesterday, Douglas said concerns about the threat from incoming lawyers were unfounded.
'English lawyers don’t want to trample on foreign lawyers at all. Our clients want us to work internationally. We’re very conscious to work with international firms without upsetting local people.
'English firms don’t want to export English lawyers for the rest of time. It’s hugely expensive and culturally not right. After a few years the local lawyers become experts and they get to play in this great international game - it drives the local lawyer to a terrific level.’
As well as India, which has refused to liberalise its jurisdiction despite lobbying from the legal profession and British government, restrictions on practising exist to varying degrees in nations such as Brazil, China and Nigeria.
The event heard that ‘host’ nations have felt resentment when forced to work with foreign lawyers and are yet to be convinced of the benefits.
Deidre Sauls, president of the Namibian Law Society, said her country enforced restrictions on foreign lawyers as a way of protecting the domestic market.
'You don’t want to just give your market away,’ she said. 'There are those who feel there should be some more liberalisation and others would feel historical factors are there for a reason which is to maintain the interests of the local profession given that it was so small. There is a fear they would be swamped by firms that are bigger than our entire profession.’
But countries were warned they risk holding back investment in their domestic industries if they continue to put up barriers to foreign lawyers.
Nick Eastwell, former Linklaters partner and now City adviser to the Solicitors Regulation Authority, said: 'People are investing round the world and if you don’t allow English lawyers to come in there won’t be enough lawyers on the ground to advise on contracts.’