Standing Committee on International Trade in Legal Services

About the Committee

The Standing Committee monitors ongoing trade negotiations and other initiatives that impact trade in legal services; informs and educates ABA members and state regulators about legal services trade issues and their implications for the regulation and practice of law in the U.S. and abroad; and regularly communicates with Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and the Department of Commerce regarding legal services.

Read more about the Standing Committee here

Featured Resources

U.S.-UK Legal Services Roundtable
On November 6th, in conjunction with a meeting of the U.S.-UK Trade and Investment Working Group, the office of the U.S. Trade Representative hosted a Legal Services Roundtable.  Participants included U.S. and UK government officials as well as representatives from the U.S. and UK legal professions.  Professor Laurel Terry and Mr. Jonathan Goldsmith gave presentations on legal regulation and related trade in services issues in the U.S. and UK respectively and the group then discussed possible ways to improve collaboration on legal services.  See Professor Terry’s presentation here and Mr. Goldsmith’s presentation here.

2018 Trade Policy Agenda and 2017 Annual Report of the President of the United States on the Trade Agreements Program. March 2018, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

Recent Trends in U.S. Services Trade: 2017 Annual Report. This annual report by the U.S. International Trade Commission focuses on U.S. exports and imports of professional services, particularly accounting and auditing, architecture and engineering, legal, and management consulting services.

2017 National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade Barriers. An annual report issued by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative that highlights significant foreign barriers to U.S. exports. The report includes sections on legal services market access in selected countries.

Conference of Chief Justices Resolution. (January 28, 2015) “In Support of Regulations Permitting Limited Practice by Foreign Lawyers in the United States to Address Issues Arising from Legal Market Globalization and Cross-Border Legal Practice.”

Admitting Foreign-Trained Lawyers in States Other than New York: Why It MattersProf. Laurel Terry, The Bar Examiner, December 2014.

Testing Foreign-Trained Applicants in a New York State of Mind. Diane Bosse, The Bar Examiner, December 2014.

International Bar Association Global Cross-Border Legal Services Report. The IBA has created a database of information about the regulation of trade in legal services.  This will provide individual lawyers and law firms with information to assist them in representing their clients internationally and developing their businesses. It will also assist bar associations, governments and other institutions that are looking to change the way they regulate practice by foreign lawyers.

International Trade in Legal Services and Professional Regulation: A Framework for State Bars Based on the Georgia Experience  (State Toolkit).  This white paper recounts the experience of the State Bar of Georgia and the Georgia Supreme Court in adopting a regulatory regime to confront issues arising from globalization, cross-border practice and lawyer mobility.  Georgia has assumed a leadership position in adopting rules that specifically address and regulate some of the various means by which lawyers from foreign countries may seek to perform services in that state. The Georgia experience provides lessons on how other state bars can generate a consensus to move forward on these issues.

Conference of Chief Justices Resolution (January 29, 2014) encouraging its members to consider the “International Trade in Legal Services and Professional Regulation: A Framework for State Bars Based on the Georgia Experience” as a guide to address issues arising from legal market globalization and cross-border legal practice.  

ABA Communications

February 7, 2018 – ABA letter to California State Senator William Monning expressing the ABA's support for Senate Bill 766, to authorize out-of-state and foreign attorneys to represent parties in international commercial arbitrations held in California.

December 5, 2017 – ABA letter to Russian Deputy Minister of Justice Denis Novak regarding consideration of any revision to the rules enabling foreign law firms to practice in Russia.

April 11, 2016 – ABA comments on amendments to Korea’s Foreign Legal Consultant Act and the subsequent amendments to the Enforcement Decree and Enforcement Rules proclaimed on March 2, 2016 by the Ministry of Justice.

October 28, 2015 – ABA comments to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative in response to a request for comments to compile the National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade Barriers. The comments focus on trade barriers to the provision of legal services and highlight existing barriers in two countries of particular importance to the U.S. legal profession – South Korea and India – and urge USTR to make legal services a priority in all ongoing trade dialogue and negotiations.

May 7, 2015 – ABA comments in response to the proposed draft amendment to South Korea’s Foreign Legal Consultant Act (“draft amendment”) issued by the Ministry of Justice on March 27, 2015.

March 10, 2015 – ABA letter in regard to the ongoing initiative to develop legislation necessary to implement the third stage of the legal services provisions in the Free Trade Agreement between the Republic of Korea and the United States (Korea-US FTA).

November 19, 2014 - Letter from ABA President William Hubbard to CCBE President Aldo Bulgarelli regarding interests of the EU and US legal professions in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations.

March 27, 2013 – ABA submits a written statement to the International Trade Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee for a hearing on “U.S.-India Trade: Opportunities and Challenges” highlighting the importance of legal services to the bilateral economic relationship and outlining the current restrictions against U.S. law firms.

View all related ABA Communications



Foreign Law Firms to be allowed in Indian SEZs?
India Briefing

In another sign that the government is keen to allow to foreign law firms and accountants in India, the government on January 3 amended the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) rules which may make legal and accountancy services from foreign companies possible in SEZs.

Is Big Law Finally Ready For Trans-Atlantic Consolidation?
The American Lawyer

The consolidation of the legal market across the Atlantic has been talked up for decades. The recent marriage of Atlanta-based Sutherland Asbill & Brennan and U.K. firm Eversheds, and the news that Norton Rose Fulbright is in talks with Chadbourne & Parke—a deal that would finally give the global giant the New York presence it has long craved—has brought the issue back into sharp focus.

Indian firms ‘blocking’ free legal market plans
The Law Society Gazette

Plans to free up India’s legal market are being ‘blocked’ by law firms unwilling to give up their monopoly despite government efforts to relax restrictions on foreign lawyers, the founder of a City practice has said.

Two global law firms exit Qatar
Australasian Lawyer

Two global firms will be closing their bases in Qatar. Both Clifford Chance and Herbert Smith Freehills will both be shuttering their offices there, though they will still practice in the country, two separate reports from Legal Week say. CC is expected to officially close its Doha office this month, while HSF will close its office in the city this summer.

Honing competitive edge of legal profession
The Straits Times

Newly elected Law Society of Singapore president Gregory Vijayendran has urged lawyers to improve their competitive edge as the legal services market here becomes internationalised. Article notes that there are 1,300 foreign lawyers registered in Singapore.

Mutual recognition critical, Bourns tells MPs, as Brexodus continues
The Law Society Gazette

More than 800 solicitors in England and Wales have sought to be admitted in Ireland since the UK voted to leave the European Union, an influential committee of MPs heard today. Gleeson told the committee that if the UK wishes to remain a financial and legal centre then part of that is free movement of lawyers into the UK and vice versa.

Ministry of Justice decision to extend deadline on Omani lawyers renews debate
Thompson Reuters Zawya

A recent Ministry of Justice decision has once again raised the question whether only Omani lawyers should be allowed to practise in courts across the country. The ministry has reversed its earlier deadline on foreign lawyers to stop practising by 2017. It has now been extended to 2020 – this is the second time it has been extended. It’s clear that the government believes law should be Omanised, but how can this be achieved and why is it important?


In liberalisation push, India may face law firm hurdle
Asian Legal Business

India’s law firms might be the last obstacle to the government’s plans to liberalise its legal industry, after the country’s most prominent law firm association sought responses to a recent government plan to allow foreign law firms to operate within special economic zones (SEZs).

Off the beaten track
Lawyer’s Weekly

Article regarding opportunities for Australian and other foreign lawyers and law firms in Brazil. Notes that Brazil is not a fully open market and so foreign firms may only set up local offices in order to act as foreign legal advisers.

The Korea conversation
Legal Business Online

In March this year, the Korean market will see the end of the first phase of its market liberalisation, and UK and U.S. firms have already opened up offices there. In the face of a slowing economy and increasing competition, how are domestic Korean law firms adapting their strategies to keep growing their business? Ranajit Dam speaks to senior figures at three law firms – Kye Sung Chung of Kim & Chang; Sung Jin Kim of Bae, Kim & Lee; and Seung Soon Lim of Yoon & Yang – to get their perspective.

SILF tries to figure out response to foreign firms: Lalit Bhasin doesn’t want ‘evasive answers’ from members
Legally India

The Society of Indian Law Firms (Silf) is not yet sure how to deal with the government’s surprise rule change that might see foreign law firms open up in special economic zones (SEZs) such as the Gujarat International Financial Tec-City (GIFT). While the actual rule change is minor (it merely removed the restriction on any law or accountancy firm to operate in SEZs) and its effect is still unclear, an Economic Times frontpage on Saturday reported that “foreign law and accountancy firms now have a chance to operate in India on their own”.

Will foreign law firms open first in SEZs (and GIFT)? Not yet, but gov’t paves a way with rule change
Legally India

As first reported by Live Law this week, the ministry of commerce and industry, which has been spearheading the government’s efforts to liberalise the legal market, alongside the law ministry, has revoked a ban on the practice of law from special economic zones (SEZs), by issuing a notification in the Gazette of India amending the Special Economic Rules governing Special Economic Zones on 3 January 2017.

Rule amended on Jan. 3: New year GIFT for MNC law and audit firms
The Times of India

Foreign Law and accountancy firms now have a chance to operate in India on their own. On Jan. 3, the ministry of commerce and industry amended a rules allowing such foreign firms to set up offices and advise clients from SEZs. The move will initially benefit Gujarat International Financial Tec-City (GIFT).

Second foreign law firm to launch in Malaysia
Free Malaysia Today

According to a report in The Lawyer, Malaysia moved to liberalise its legal services sector in June 2014, allowing foreign law firms to establish a presence here through the QFLF licence scheme. The new regime, according to the report, also allows foreign firms and lawyers to form an international partnership with Malaysian firms, owning up to 40 per cent foreign equity in the joint venture. So far, however, only two firms have taken advantage of the liberalisation to apply for a QFLF. However, the report said, interest from UK firms and chambers had been growing gradually.

Global Law Firms Face a World of Questions in 2017
The American Lawyer (subscription required)

Ever since the financial crisis, Big Law has adapted to volatile market conditions. But the U.K.'s shocking decision to leave the European Union and Donald Trump's equally unexpected victory in the U.S. presidential election have created significant uncertainty in the world's two largest legal markets.


Plan for liberal legal sector hits Bar Council hurdle
Hindustan Times

The government’s plan of opening up the legal sector to foreign players has ground to a halt after the Bar Council of India (BCI) pulled out of a process of drafting rules for entry of overseas firms into India. The BCI — which regulates the legal profession in India — opposed a commerce ministry suggestion that foreign lawyers be allowed to practice Indian law in the country, its chairman Manan Kumar Mishra told HT. Under current law, only Indian citizens can do that.


Upset BCI U-turns, throws spanners into today’s legal liberalisation talks • Ball now in GOI (and Supreme) court
Legally India

The Bar Council of India (BCI) has backtracked on its earlier full-throated support of liberalisation of the legal market in a six-page letter, saying that it had encountered “strong opposition” from state bar councils and was therefore withdrawing its earlier draft rules to allow foreign lawyers.

Liberalisation stalled as BCI withdraws Foreign Firms Draft Rules
Bar & Bench

In an unexpected development today, the Bar Council of India withdrew its own Draft Rules on the entry of foreign law firms. This was revealed today in a meeting with various stakeholders including the Ministry of Commerce, Society of Indian Law Firms (SILF), the Indian Corporate Counsel Association (ICCA), FICCI, Indian National Bar Association members and the Law Secretary Suresh Chandra.

ICCA draft liberalisation bill is most thorough yet: Proposes 26-49% legal FDI within 2-5 years, ad rules, CLE, insurance, more
Legally India

The Indian Corporate Counsel Association (ICCA) has produced draft of a Foreign Legal Practitioners (Regulation of Practice) Bill 2016, which it will present at today’s meeting with ministries and stakeholders at 17:30 in Delhi. The draft, a copy of which has been leaked to Legally India, has been produced by ICCA and management consultancy the Rasich Group, and proceeds on the basis that allowing foreign lawyers’ entry to India may not be possible without separate legislation to complement the Advocates Act.

Interview: SILF’s Lalit Bhasin slams quick foreign lawyer entry floated by INBA (which just won a seat at tomorrow’s negotiating table)

Legally India

The Indian National Bar Association (INBA), which released a report last week calling for the entry of foreign law firms this year, has now also been invited to also meet the Government in tomorrow’s talks on legal market liberalisation.

Liberalisation one step closer as India’s law secretary calls key meeting
Asian Legal Business

India has moved one step closer to liberalising its legal market, after Suresh Chandra, the Union Law Secretary, formally called a meeting in New Delhi on Sept. 29 to discuss draft rules governing the entry of foreign law firms and lawyers. The draft rules, submitted last month, were jointly prepared by law firms Hammurabi & Solomon and Medhaadvisors as well as the Indian National Bar Association (INBA).

Opposition says gov’t must protect financial services, local lawyers
Cayman Compass

The government, keen to comply with international requirements for the regulation of financial services and related industries pending a territorial anti-money laundering review due next year, is pushing the latest version of the Legal Practitioners Bill (2016 revision) to the Legislative Assembly early next month. The bill also creates a separate business staffing plan regime for locally operating law firms, including rules that seek to ensure Caymanian lawyers are “properly considered” for promotions, including in overseas operations at the various law firms.

‘Open legal market immediately’, proposes Indian Nat’l Bar Ass’n (INBA) in liberalisation report
Legally India

The Indian National Bar Association (INBA) has weighed into the legal market liberalisation debate, coming up with a proposal that would see foreign law firms entering by the end of this year, with “complete liberalisation” proposed to happen by the end of 2019. The report, prepared by law firm Hammurabi & Solomon, the INBA and law and business consultancy Medhaadvisors, suggests that the draft Bar Council of India (BCI) rules, with several amendments, should be implemented by the fourth quarter of 2016, allowing foreign lawyers to practice non-Indian law and international arbitration in India.

TTIP, globalisation and lawyers
The Law Society Gazette

It looks as if the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is dead. It is timely, therefore, to contemplate what the retreat from globalisation might mean for our profession. I assume the gains in liberalisation over the years – particularly in the EU – will not be taken away. But will there be any forward movement in the near future?

There is only one large trade agreement which has not been knocked out by anti-globalisation campaigners, although they have it in their sights – the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA), being negotiated in Geneva under the umbrella of the World Trade Organisation by 23 countries, including the EU for us.

Brexit: applications to practise law in Ireland keep rising
The Law Society Gazette

The number of solicitors applying to practise in Ireland has more than doubled since the UK voted to leave the European Union, the Gazette has learned.

Denial of application for foreign lawyer defended by Bar Association
Bahamas Tribune

BAHAMAS Bar Association President Elsworth Johnson yesterday defended the self-regulating body against criticisms of its decision to deny an application by the Bahamian law firm representing Sarkis Izmirlian to bring in a foreign lawyer to join their legal team. “As long as the Act remains as it is, if we have qualified senior Bahamians who can do the work then that’s it, the applications will be denied.”

The Big Read: As supply of lawyers lurches from shortage to glut, spotlight falls on policies
TODAY Online

Singapore - In 2013, a committee tasked to look into the supply of lawyers — by now in its fourth incarnation — called for a third law school to be set up at UniSIM, prioritising the training of criminal and family lawyers. There were too few practitioners in these areas, it found. Barely a year later, Singapore was officially facing a potential glut of lawyers, due to a spurt in the number of Singaporeans studying to be lawyers overseas and the expected slowdown in economic growth. Over the years, the committees have looked into various issues including measures on qualifications, ensuring a strong pipeline of lawyers “of the requisite quality”, training of lawyers and “the extent to which foreign lawyers should be able to practise Singapore law”, due to its economic needs.

UAE: No longer the land of opportunity for international firms

Once seen as the land of opportunity for international law firms, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has become a tough market for those unprepared for its challenges.

Entry of Foreign Law Firms: How Indian lawyers can be better protected
Bar & Bench

The liberalization of the legal sector is now imminent, and on the anvil. The first phase is expected to begin as early as the end of the month, with a focus on giving impetus to the domestic legal sector in a bid to create a level playing field with foreign law firms. This phase shall also include the run up to phase three, where foreign law firms may be permitted to practice non-litigation Indian law and commercial arbitration.


At Hogan Lovells, China is the Future
Bloomberg Law

Not many western law firms have been able to break into the Chinese market as fully as they would like. In 2015, Baker & McKenzie formed a first-of-its kind joint operation with FenXun Partners in the Shanghai free-trade zone — a move that Hogan Lovells would like to emulate. In an interview this week with Big Law Business, Patrick Sherrington, regional managing partner for the Asia Pacific and Middle East regions for Hogan Lovells, said his firm is actively seeking to partner with a Chinese law firm. He even likened such an association to “The Holy Grail” — a metaphor that suggests fairly long odds.

Laos market report: A gentle awakening
Asian Legal Business

The Lao legal market is also in the developmental stage, being relatively small compared to neighbouring countries such as Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar. Baillie notes, however, that the legal industry is opening up. “As the Lao economy continues to expand, largely off the back of resource development and a burgeoning middle class, we have noticed an increase in the number of foreign and local law firms being established to meet local market needs.”

Articulated vision is need of the hour, SILF on the BCI Draft Rules
Bar & Bench

A committee formed by the Society of Indian Law Firms (SILF) has submitted its comments on the controversial BCI Draft Rules on the entry of foreign lawyers to Law Secretary Suresh Chandra.

Clifford Chance replaces Saudi Arabia office with new local alliance
ABA Journal

Clifford Chance has taken the unusual step of replacing its office in Saudi Arabia in favor of an alliance with local firm, Abuhimed Alsheikh Alhagbani Law Firm.

Where East meets West
Lawyer’s Weekly

Shanghai has experienced rapid development in recent years – and these changes have opened new opportunities for foreign lawyers.

Calls for India to allow entry to foreign firms
Australasian Lawyer

As discussions continue about how and when foreign law firms will be permitted to operate in India, the US ambassador to the country has urged the profession to embrace globalization.

“Liberalisation Will Benefit Both India and the US” US Ambassador to India
Yahoo Finance

United States' Ambassador to India, His Excellency Ambassador Richard R. Verma called upon India to contemplate ways to liberalise its legal services sector and said, "I really believe that for India to fulfill its global economic potential, it should participate in the gradual globalisation of the legal profession. Permitting foreign law firm to work in India does not mean taking away the market share but it is about providing best legal advice to the clients."

Nothing inherently riskier about ABS, says super regulator
The Law Society Gazette

Restrictions on alternative business structure can be lifted now they have shown to pose no greater risk than traditional law firms, the Legal Services Board has said. The oversight regulator told the Ministry of Justice that no evidence has emerged to show non-lawyer ownership of or investment in legal businesses requires special rules.

India Aims To Be The World's Newest International Arbitration Hub

India is seeking to become the world’s newest international arbitration hub by establishing a new arbitral center in Mumbai. The Mumbai Centre for International Arbitration (MCIA), which which launches in October 2016, will be India’s very first arbitration tribunal. Regardless of the ultimate success of the MCIA, industry observers are closely monitoring the unveiling of the MCIA to assess whether it foreshadows a potential first step toward liberalizing India’s legal sector.

Investment, AEC rousing Cambodia’s sleepy legal sector
Asian Legal Business

Foreign law firms trying to enter the market will find it about as protected as a number of other Asian economies. Firms from overseas can establish a presence and practice law in Cambodia only “in commercial association with Cambodian law firm and may not directly represent clients before the courts,” according to Siphana. The term “commercial association”, he said, “is understood to mean any commercial arrangement and does not require it to be in any juridical form.” This requirement, however, is not applicable “if legal services are provided on foreign law and international law.”

Brexit: UK firms ‘need US-qualified lawyers
The Law Society Gazette

A report on the implications of Brexit for banking lawyers states that US law may become more widely used in European transactions, especially when they involve acquisitions by US companies using US law firms.

Firms urged to export legal services
Lawyers Weekly

International supply and demand is creating a “great opportunity” for Australian lawyers to export their services to overseas markets, according to a global firm.

View news from 2013-2015 here


Upcoming Events:

ABA 2021 Midyear Meeting
February 17-22, 2021

International Law Section 2021 Annual Meeting
April 13-17, 2021
Miami, FL

Past Events:

ABA Section of International Law
2018 Spring Meeting
April 17-21, 2018
New York, NY

2018 Annual Meeting
July 27-Aug. 7, 2018
Chicago, IL

2016 Annual Meeting Program

Going Global: Association between Local and Foreign Lawyers and Law Firms

This event took place on Saturday, August 6, 2016. Click here to view the materials.

2015 ABA Annual Meeting: CLE Program

It’s a Small World After All:
A Global Tour of Transnational Regulatory Changes Affecting You!

This event took place on Friday, July 31. Click on the link below to view the materials. Click here to view the materials.

ABA Policy

August 1990 - European Community. Support the European Community's commitment to create a single, integrated market. Urge the European Community to implement measures in such a manner as to ensure effective, nondiscriminatory market access for non-EC-based business entities. Urge that companies organized under the laws of all EC member states are to be treated on an equal basis without regard to the ultimate beneficial ownership of the company. Recommend that measures relating to the integration of the legal profession be designed so as to ensure the preservation of the integrity of the legal profession and the continued recognition of its distinctive characteristics and responsibilities. Recommend that measures adopted by the European Community should not impose or permit restrictions upon the delivery of legal services by members of foreign legal professions that are not objectively required for the protection of the public. 90A307

February 2016 – Amendment of Rule 5.5 of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct and the ABA Model Rule for Registration of In-House Counsel.  Model Rules amended to include language specifying that the court of highest appellate jurisdiction may, in its discretion, allow foreign in-house lawyers who do not meet the ABA definition of foreign lawyer because they cannot be “members of the bar” to be able to practice as in-house counsel in the U.S. and to be so registered.

August 2013 – International Legal Regulatory Information Exchange.  Urges the highest courts of states and lawyer regulatory authorities to coordinate with their foreign regulatory counterparts and enter into voluntary arrangements to facilitate the exchange of relevant information, consistent with the jurisdictions’ rules, and adopts the Guidelines for an International Regulatory Information Exchange, dated August 2013. 13A104

February 2013 – Model Rule on Pro Hac Vice Admission.  Model Rule amended to provide judges with guidance about whether to grant limited and temporary practice authority to foreign lawyers to appear in U.S. courts. 13M107C

February 2013 – Model Rule for Registration of In-House Counsel.  Model Rule amended to permit a foreign lawyer to serve as in-house counsel, but with the added requirement that the foreign lawyer may not advise on U.S. law except on the basis of advice from a lawyer who is duly licensed and authorized to provide such advice. 13M107B

View all related ABA Policy here

Related ABA Publications

Guide to Bar Admission Requirements

The Comprehensive Guide sets out the rules and practices of all U.S. jurisdictions for admission to the bar by examination and on motion. Available as a free download by clicking on the title and for purchase in the ABA Webstore.

International Bar Admissions

An overview of the bar admission process in more than 50 countries, including issues of language, educational requirements, character and fitness, challenges, reiprocity, and where to find more information.

U.S. Legal Studies

An unofficial guide for foreign lawyers considering the study of law in the United States, it includes factors that prospective students should consider in deciding whether or not to study in the United States, the application process, and the U.S. law school experience.

Guide to Foreign Law Firms

The ABA Guide to Foreign Law Firms, Fifth Edition, is designed to help lawyers in identifying qualified legal counsel in the many foreign jurisdictions with which such lawyers are likely to come into contact, particularly those in countries emerging as significant factors in international commercial transactions.