India Business Law Journal presents its annual report on the state of play in India’s legal market, accompanied by an essential directory of more than 50 of the country’s leading commercial law firms

With India gearing up for the entry of foreign law firms, Rebecca Abraham checks the pulse of the market

In July 2012, Shardul Shroff, then the New Delhi-based managing partner of Amarchand Mangaldas, said the firm’s plans to grow to 1,000 lawyers by its centenary in 2017 would not be easy to realize. The firm had expanded to around 550 lawyers from 80 over the previous 15 years and speaking to India Business Law Journal, Shroff said that he and his brother Cyril were “trying to create an institution … We are no longer asking ourselves a question of why are we doing it. We just are driven to do it. It’s an internal challenge, a mental challenge, like playing chess.”

Big is beautiful

Fast-forward three years and the game of chess continues, although the implosion of Amarchand Mangaldas has meant that plans to make it an institution have fallen by the wayside. Now the Shroff brothers are pitted against each other as they build separate firms, Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co (SAM) and Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas (CAM). India’s legal community has been watching and some are concerned.

Price wars

“Big has become beautiful for many, who are in the race for the biggest number of attorneys – mostly for non-commercial reasons,” remarks Berjis Desai, managing partner of J Sagar Associates, who sees the “churning” in the market triggered by the Shroff brothers’ parting of ways as a challenge. Desai adds that an overall fall in productivity is inevitable as “the manner in which new hires are taking place is disproportionate to the work available, so quite a few of them would be sitting on the bench”.

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