“Lawyers are the cement of society” were the famous words reiterated by the world renowned Cambridge scholar Glanville Williams QC. Following the exit by the UK from the European Union, it is safe to say divisions and cracks have formed within British society which could do with being cemented.
Whilst the battle of Brexit between “camp leave” and “camp remain” will no doubt continue for the years to come, what is clear is that all eyes are on the UK to see quite how talented we are as a country to establish trade deals, negotiate tariffs and consolidate relationships with all countries around the world including India, possibly the UK’s most important partner.
With India’s economy accelerating, speculation that by the year 2020 India could be home to the world’s largest middle class and a country with an exceedingly strong reputation for enterprise, the potential building blocks to create a strong trading partnership between the UK and India are in place.
It would seem that a prerequisite in cementing the trading relationship between the UK and India would be to ensure that there is greater collaboration and understanding between the lawyers of both countries. In a world where international borders are being broken down and the ease of doing business in different continents is easier now than ever before, some would argue that liberalising the Indian legal industry is a necessary and logical next step. The idea that one must hold an Indian citizenship before being in a position to work in India doesn’t quite fit with the globalised character of the profession nor the demands of multinational companies. If India is going to be the land where global corporations and starts ups look to scale their businesses, the warm welcome should equally be extended to the global legal advisors to these companies beyond the special economic zones that currently exist. After all, the risk of deterring the global companies of today and tomorrow from India because their legal advisors cannot follow them is real. A closed door policy to international lawyers including British qualified lawyers could lock out talent and hinder the ability to create closer relationships between the lawyers of both countries.
Following a recent survey by Ipos Mori, there appears to be a clear interest gap that exists among young people from India and the UK. Whilst, 74% of young educated Indians said that they knew “a great deal or fair amount about the UK”, this figure reached no more than 26% when the question was asked to their UK counterparts. In my book “A living bridge, the UK-India Diaspora and the Rise of the Millennials”, I call this the “interest gap challenge” that needs attention. In the GenY survey 2014-2015, even though 85% of India own Smartphones and 91% are on Facebook, face to face interaction still came out as the preferred method of communication between young people. Junior lawyers of today will be the future commercial leaders of tomorrow, consequently, action must start now in filling the “interest gap”. A mutual interest between lawyers of both India and the UK about the practices, working culture as well as the commercial and legal challenges is crucial if there is to be as described by Manoj Ladwa “a winning partnership” between the two countries in the legal sector.
Equipped with the knowledge that there is an interest gap to be filled and human interaction is the preferred method of engagement, the launch of the India-UK Legal Exchange Programme was launched on 7 February 2018 in the UK House of Lords hosted by Lord Gadhia and supported by law firms Wiseman Lee LLP and BSM Legal Advisors and Strategy Consultants LLP. This initiative was discussed and supported during my meeting with the Indian Minister of External Affairs, Hon. Sushma Swaraj in December 2017 when advising on methods to enhance the relationship between India and the UK diaspora.
The exchange programme provides lawyers with an opportunity for visit each other’s jurisdictions with a view to better understand the legal process, judicial decision making, policy making as well as obtaining exclusive access to a variety of lawyers, judges, politicians and institutions which are working to uphold the rule of law. The exchange programme will offer delegates ample opportunity to network with their counterparts from the host nation with the aim that rapport building and understanding at this stage will lead to greater collaboration in the future. The launch of the exchange programme also welcomed the first delegation from India who attended 42 meetings in a week with senior lawyers, judges and politicians across the country. Plans are currently in progress to send a delegation of British lawyers to India in February 2019.