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Legal India

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Indian Government proposals for regulation of around 500 Indian law firms, the introduction of a compulsory code of practice for lawyers, proposals to ban accountants performing legal work and the possible entry of foreign legal firms into India on a level playing field with local lawyers all potentially have a profound effect on international trade. Already we have seen massive outsourcing of back office functions to India in such diverse areas as insurance, banking, telecommunications to name just a few. The recent outsourcing of Rio Tinto's internal legal department to India as well as a recent string of US law firms outsourcing drafting and correction of grammatical errors in documents drafted by either unskilled or simply overworked US lawyers to Indian lawyers, should give all western lawyers reason to consider where it will all stop. Similarly, Australian accountants should be aware of the recent MOU signed by the Indian Institute of Chartered Accountants and the equivalent body here in Australia recognising each other's qualifications. Australia has entered into a number of Free Trade Agreements with like-minded countries. Negotiations are currently under way between India and Australia for a Free Trade Agreement. Globalisation with Indian lawyers and accountants with their hard work, English language skills and high achieving professionals is likely to cause a shake up in the way international trade and the professions in different countries are conducted far more than most of us are aware. Why? Despite opposition from locals in India to opening up their economy to foreign lawyers and accountants, the pressure is such that foreign lawyers and accountants will eventually be allowed to practice in India. Naturally we can only expect the converse to apply and Indian lawyers and accountants will increasingly look to practising in western countries such as Australia. Is this a good thing? To achieve the best result at the best price this seems inevitable and perhaps even desirable. Our commitment to education and our nation's willingness to develop our skill base will determine our economic future, who makes the rules on how we live just as much as what resources we can dig out of the ground. To keep in the game it's time to upskill. -James Millea is a senior associate at Argyle Lawyers

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