Regulation of legal profession

Since 1961 the Indian legal profession has been unified into a single type of legal practitioner: the advocate. There are two classes of advocates: senior advocates and ordinary advocates.

Senior advocates are given this distinction by the Supreme Court or High Court in recognition of their special knowledge, experience or standing.

The regulation of the profession is carried out by the Bar Council of India and the appropriate State Bar Council. There are 17 State Bar Councils and two High Court Authorities (Jammu and Kashmir and Jharkhand).

The Bar Council of India has the following main responsibilities:

  • to lay down standards of professional conduct;
  • to lay down the procedure to be followed by its disciplinary committee and the disciplinary committee of each State Bar Council;
  • to safeguard the rights, privileges and interests of advocates;
  • to promote and support law reform;
  • to exercise general supervision and control over State Bar Councils;
  • to promote legal education and to lay down standards of education in consultation with Universities and State Bar Councils;
  • to recognise Universities for the purposes of admitting their graduates as advocates;
  • to promote law reform;
  • to organise legal aid to the poor;
  • to recognise on a reciprocal basis foreign qualifications in law obtained outside India for the purpose of admission as an advocate.

The Bar Council’s rules are published on its website.

Each State Bar Council has the following responsibilities:

  • to admit persons as advocates on its roll;
  • to prepare and maintain such roll;
  • to entertain and determine cases of misconduct against advocates on its roll;
  • to safeguard the rights, privileges and interests of advocates on its roll;
  • to promote and support law reform;
  • to organise legal aid to the poor.

Indian advocates must register with their State Bar Council and pay a one off fee to the Bar Council of India. The State Bar Councils are responsible for disciplining individual advocates. Appeals of disciplinary findings can be made to the Bar Council.

Practising in India as a foreign lawyer

Foreign lawyers are not permitted to practise in India at the present time. Foreign lawyers are regularly granted visas to visit clients or referral partners in India.


The Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) Act passed through the Indian parliament on 12 December 2008. The passage of the Act provides for the possibility of foreign (and Indian) law firms establishing as LLPs, but the overall legal regime requires some clarification before this can happen.

EU-India free trade discussions were launched in 2007 and may provide a comprehensive way to address the trade barriers faced by the legal profession.

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