Law firms in India look to edge the Big Four out of the legal advisory space

07 May 2019 3 min. read
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Law firms in India are looking to prevent the Big Four accounting and advisory firms in the country from edging into their market share, exemplified by a directive recently passed by the Bar Council of Delhi, which has instructed these firms to refrain from launching legal advisory practices. 

The legal market in India is a mammoth industry that surpassed a value of $1.3 billion last year. The market is dominated by a handful of local law firms, although the government recently opened the market up for foreign firms to begin developing practices in India, presumably to encourage more quality through competition.

Domestic law firms have enjoyed pride of place thus far, and have been coping with the growing share of international competition. The sector has been helped along by a spike in the demand for legal services, which resulted from the introduction of the new Goods and Services Tax regime early last year.

Legal restructuring to ensure compliance has become a priority for firms across India, making it a lucrative time to be offering legal services. So much so that the Big Four accounting and advisory firms – Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC – have begun hiring legal professionals so as to capitalise on this market.

Law firms in India look to edge the Big Four out of the legal advisory space

These firms are on an expansion and diversification drive, and have been heavily investing in developing a talent pool that can match the expanding needs in the Indian market. While the law sector has had to contend with international competition, it is now pushing back on these unwanted advances from accounting and advisory firms. 

Late last year, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs in India suggested that the Advocates Act should be tweaked to make room for accounting and advisory firms. The move prompted a complaint from the Society of Indian Law Firms (SILF), which was taken up by the Bar Council of Delhi.

The Council has responded by directing the Big Four to cease their legal advisory practices, and has asked them to divulge details of any legal experts that they may have hired in recent times. KPMG and Deloitte responded immediately, although PwC and EY have requested two weeks to submit their response.

“The BCD (Bar Council of Delhi) has asked the so-called Big Four to provide the list of lawyers who are part of them in any capacity and still practising the law. SILF believes that audit and consulting firms are also providing legal services in India, which is prohibited under the Advocates Act 1961,” explained Lalit Bhasin, who is the President of SILF.