London, June 9 : British Justice Minister Bridget Prentice today said here that the lucrative Indian legal market could be opened up in maybe three years if the political conditions are favourable. "It would be a tragedy if the country's legal industry failed to internationalise like other sectors such as information technology and pharmaceuticals," she said.
The Financial Times reported that Prentice has just returned from a lobbying trip to India.
London is aggressively pushing for the opening up of restricted legal markets such as China, Brazil and India.
Prentice said that she was trying to support Indian ministers who were in favour of deregulation, reassure lawyers there who had misgivings, and encourage business people to start speaking more loudly about why the change would be good for them.
India's legal market is seen as the last great land of opportunity for foreign law firms as the country's industries become more global and its companies begin to look to do more deals overseas.
Britain is particularly keen on deregulation because London is home to some of the world's largest international law firms, including Clifford Chance, Linklaters, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Allen and Overy.
Foreign lawyers in India are banned outright from setting up offices in India, and even domestic firms are heavily restricted. They cannot grow in size to beyond 20 partners each, and they cannot incorporate, advertise or tie up with companies outside their profession.
Overseas lawyers have for years tried to work around these tight rules by opening India practices outside the country and then shuttling in to service clients from their hotel rooms, or from the offices of "friendly" domestic firms with which they have formed alliances.
But many Indian lawyers have fiercely opposed the entry of their foreign rivals, arguing they are not prepared for competition from global firms.