And the winners are … Rebecca Abraham reports

Companies and law firms across India have been grappling with a global pandemic in what was already a challenging market, and are now facing an economic downturn. For lawyers and law firms, while these factors may have spurred a greater need for certain legal services as businesses struggle with the challenges of corporate India and global events, competition between firms and a softening of fees has meant that times have become increasingly tough.

Yet even in the midst of adversity, transactions have been happening, and lawyers have been called upon to step forward and guide companies as they face challenges that require complex and innovative legal solutions.

In this difficult and dynamic environment, India Business Law Journal’s editorial team was once again tasked with selecting the winners of the Indian Law Firm Awards. Our decisions are based on thousands of nominations and endorsements received from in-house counsel, other senior corporate executives and legal professionals around the world, as well as hundreds of submissions from Indian law firms. Many of those who assisted with our research are quoted in the text that follows. Many more provided their endorsements on an anonymous basis.

As in previous years, we identify one Law Firm of the Year and seven Best Overall Law Firms. We also have six winners in the category of Best New Law Firms and seven winners of equal standing in all other categories. Descriptions of the achievements of winning firms are given in the category in which each firm is first mentioned.

India Business Law Journal’s Indian Law Firm Awards have been presented annually since 2009. As in previous years, the winners have been selected based on nominations received, reference checks with law firm clients and qualitative information received from in-house counsel and other legal professionals, in India and around the world.

A nomination form was posted on our website between December 2019 and February 2020, and thousands of in-house counsel, lawyers at international law firms and other India-focused professionals were invited to make nominations and provide qualitative information to back up each nomination. At the same time, Indian law firms were asked to make submissions in support of their candidacy for awards, and also complete a peer-review exercise.

The results of this exercise reflect the data and qualitative information from all of these sources, combined with extensive research by India Business Law Journal’s editorial team. All Indian law firms were automatically eligible for inclusion in the awards process and, as always, there were no fees or any other requirements for entry.

LAW FIRM OF THE YEAR

Winner
Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co

For the second year running, Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co (SAM) takes the top accolade in our awards and is named Law Firm of the Year. Whether it is soft data gathered in the course of conversations with clients and the firm’s peers, or hard data from our nomination scores, there is a strong consensus that SAM has the most sought-after teams of lawyers.

This is a remarkable feat for a firm that in May 2015 – when it emerged under its new brand – had 300 lawyers and spoke of plans to build a team of 400 to 450 lawyers. Now it has roughly 600 lawyers, including 115 partners of whom more than 20 are equity partners. Yet this may be par for the course given the credentials of the firm’s founders, managing partner Pallavi Shroff and executive chairman Shardul Shroff.

The firm is sought after for the most complex transactions and challenging matters. When, in October 2019, Infosys was confronted with a whistleblower’s allegations that its CEO was committing accounting irregularities, it turned to lawyers at SAM to investigate. Similarly, when Bandhan Bank needed advice and handholding during its merger with Gruh Finance – in what was one of the first mergers in India of two unrelated banking entities – the bank turned to SAM and its team of banking and finance, and M&A lawyers.

Rajiv Choubey, the chief legal officer at ACC, says the firm is to be applauded for its “ability to handle high-stakes issues”. Add to this its record in capital markets, where partner Prashant Gupta has advised on multiple high-profile transactions including every listing by an Indian company in the US, and its work in infrastructure and other practice areas, and what emerges is a powerhouse of expertise.

SAM was number one in Mergermarket’s M&A rankings for 2019, having advised on 103 deals valued at US$31.85 billion. It also advised on 12 of India Business Law Journal’s 2019 Deals of the Year. These included: the acquisition of equity in MakeMyTrip by Chinese online travel company Ctrip.com (SAM was Indian counsel to Ctrip); the dispute between Cyrus Mistry and Tata Sons, in which SAM advised and represented Tata Sons before the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT); and Axis Bank’s US$1.7 billion qualified institutional placement, in which SAM advised Axis Bank.

In addition to being named Law Firm of the Year, SAM picks up no less than 16 practice area awards in our Indian Law Firm Awards.

BEST OVERALL LAW FIRM

Winners
AZB & Partners
Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas
J Sagar Associates
Khaitan & Co
L&L Partners
Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co
Trilegal

All of this year’s Best Overall Law Firms have held their positions at the top of the market year after year. Can this continue? India’s top law firms are mindful of the changing needs of their clients and have widened and deepened their offerings accordingly. Yet there are indications of credible challengers making progress, even as some within the top rung have struggled to cope with the new realities of the market.

For now at least, the status quo continues and we are proud to reveal that India’s best Overall Law Firms for 2020 are (in alphabetical order) AZB & Partners, Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas (CAM), J Sagar Associates, Khaitan & Co, L&L Partners, SAM, and Trilegal.

With more than 100 partners who advise on everything from microfinance issues to complex multi jurisdictional M&A transactions, AZB & Partners continues to hold its place at the top of the market.

Notable achievements in the past year include: advising HDFC, the promoter of Gruh Finance, on the US$12 billion merger of Gruh Finance with Bandhan Bank; assisting Larsen & Toubro with its hostile takeover of Mindtree; and representing the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in the Supreme Court, where the constitutional validity of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) was upheld.

N Hariharan, executive vice-president and company secretary at Larsen & Toubro (L&T), says, “AZB met our expectations at all times, and in some cases exceeded expectations.” Singling out partner Ashwath Rau and his team, Hariharan says they “were prompt in responding to queries raised by the L&T team at the time of the acquisition of the shares of Mindtree”.

Having recently benefited from the firm’s M&A and private equity expertise, Pawan Singh, managing director at Bain Capital, says it is “very thorough … provides commercially relevant advice … [and] knows regulatory frameworks and nuances very well”.

The firm reports that it recently acquired additional office space to accommodate its growing banking and finance, and restructuring and insolvency practices. It has also made some partner-level lateral hires, including Aditya Periwal from L&L Partners and Bharat Budholia from CAM.

AZB & Partners was third in Mergermarket’s M&A rankings for 2019, having advised on 94 deals valued at US$22.65 billion. It also advised on nine of India Business Law Journal’s 2019 Deals of the Year, including: the US$3.5 billion Bharti Airtel rights issue, where it advised Bharti Airtel; the onshoring of Uber’s India business, where it advised Uber; and Brookfield Asset Management’s US$1.9 billion acquisition of Reliance Industries-owned Pipeline Infrastructure through a sponsored infrastructure investment trust, where it advised Reliance Industries. In addition to being named one of the Best Overall Law Firms, AZB & Partners picks up 13 practice area awards.

Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas (CAM), India’s largest law firm by number of lawyers, is routinely sought out by parties to some of India’s largest and most complex transactions, especially in the banking and finance, and capital markets areas.

In the past year, the firm’s clients have included: Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, which it advised on the sale of the majority of its banking portfolio in India to DCB Bank; and Mahindra & Mahindra, which it advised on the competition law aspects of the company’s acquisition of a majority stake in Ford’s India operations.

An international client who has used the firm for its corporate, M&A, capital markets and tax expertise, and who did not want to be named, is particularly appreciative. “They take direct, commercial positions and are not afraid to give advice that may be difficult to hear,” he says. The client is all praise for: partner Shishir Vaytadden, describing him as “an excellent strategist, providing complex and clear advice on M&A and corporate matters”; partner Abhinav Kumar, saying his “commerciality and attention to detail have guided me through multiple transactions”; and partner Yash Ashar, who he describes as a welcome addition to any “bet the company” questions on capital markets, adding that Ashar’s “considered advice allows me to take internal decisions confidently”.

In the past year, CAM has made several partner-level lateral hires, including most recently Vijay Pratap Singh Chauhan from Platinum, Ravindra Bandhakavi from Trilegal and Varun Sehgal from SAM.

CAM was second in Mergermarket’s M&A rankings for 2019, having advised on 65 deals valued at US$26.99 billion. It also advised on 13 of India Business Law Journal’s 2019 Deals of the Year, including: Greenko’s US$1 billion bond offering, where CAM was the company’s Indian legal counsel; the acquisition of Bhushan Power and Steel by JSW Steel using the IBC, where CAM advised the committee of creditors; and State Bank of India’s US$1.2 billion dual tranche Regulation S/Rule 144A senior notes issuance, where CAM advised the bank.

CAM also picks up 13 practice area awards in our Indian Law Firm Awards.

J Sagar Associates (JSA) continues to be one of India’s most well regarded firms. The past year saw a change to the make-up of the firm’s leadership – a five-member executive committee – with the addition of partner Upendra Nath Sharma, following the retirement of partner Amitabh Kumar. JSA currently has more than 100 partners, 37 of which are equity partners.

The firm’s clients have included: Tata Group, GIC Infra Holdings and SSG Capital Management, who together invested in GMR Airports; ANZ Banking Group, Bank of India and Westpac Banking Corporation in relation to a US$500 million term loan facility for ONGC Videsh; and the book-running lead managers to the recently successful IPO of Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation.

“The domain knowledge of JSA … stands out among their peers,” says Raj Arora, vice president, legal, at BSES Rajdhani Power, who has used the firm since 2002. He recommends partners Anupam Varma, Nikhil Sharma and Rahul Kinra, and gives the firm the thumbs up “for all policy-related and regulatory work” for advisory and litigation.

Recommending in particular partner Sidharrth Shankar and his team, a client who used the firm’s PE expertise, and wishes to remain anonymous, says: “[Senior associate] Hema Patnaik is an outstanding professional – without Hema the deal would not have been possible.”

The firm reports that it has expanded its offerings, with a new indirect tax practice with the hiring of partner Manish Mishra at its Gurugram office; and partner Shareen Gupta in Mumbai. It has similarly added to its TMT practice, with the lateral hire of Asim Abbas from CAM. It has also hired a chief strategy and development officer.

According to Mergermarket data, JSA advised on 28 M&A transactions in 2019 valued at US$5.2 billion. It also advised on four of India Business Law Journal’s 2019 Deals of the Year. These included: the joint venture between Mahindra & Mahindra and Ford, where JSA advised Ford; a US$3 billion syndicated acquisition financing facility to UPL, where JSA advised UPL; and a landmark case in the Supreme CourtIndependent Power Producers Association of India v Union of India – where JSA represented some of the petitioners. JSA also picks up 11 practice area awards in our Indian Law Firm Awards.

Khaitan & Co continues to be sought after for its expertise. The firm, which has about 700 lawyers, has drawn in work from prestigious clients such as the Blackstone Group, which it has advised on several transactions, including recently, when Blackstone formed a joint venture with a Hiranandani Group firm to develop warehousing and logistics parks.

The firm takes pride in its restructuring and insolvency practice, which it says predates the enactment of the IBC in 2016. Its recent mandates in the area have included advising the committee of creditors of Alok Industries, one of the initial “dirty dozen” non-performing assets flagged by the RBI. The firm reports that it recently advised a potential investor who made a one-time offer for restructuring the debt of Suzlon Energy in a first-of-its-kind pre-IBC restructuring. Innovative transactions such as this add to Khaitan & Co’s reputation.

According to Mergermarket data, Khaitan & Co advised on 92 M&A transactions in 2019, valued at US$10.8 billion. It also advised on six of India Business Law Journal’s 2019 Deals of the Year. These included: Nippon Life Insurance’s stake increase in Reliance Nippon Life Asset Management, where Khaitan & Co advised Nippon Life Insurance; Tata Steel’s April 2019 acquisition of the steel division of Usha Martin, where the firm advised Usha Martin; and an April 2019 copyright infringement suit against Spotify, in which the firm’s client, music label Saregama, persuaded the Delhi High Court to order Spotify to take down more than 100,000 of the label’s songs. Khaitan & Co also picks up 11 practice area awards in our Indian Law Firm Awards.

A year after rebranding itself, L&L Partners continues to be sought after for advice on high-profile matters and transactions. The 78-partner firm has four offices and about 325 lawyers.

Notable matters that L&L Partners has recently worked on include: advising on an enquiry into allegations against Chanda Kochhar, the former head of ICICI Bank; acting for JSW Steel when it needed swift clearance from the Competition Commission of India on its proposed acquisition of Bhushan Power & Steel; and representing Petronas on its first investment in a renewable energy company in India.

Clients are impressed. “These are a bunch of very smart and savvy lawyers who very quickly sense the pulse of the client requirement and accordingly modulate their strategy and approach,” says RS Chidambaram, assistant general counsel at Caterpillar India.

Having recently worked with the regulatory, tax and capital markets teams at the firm, Bharat Singh, an operating partner at Sequoia Capital, says: “The client’s interest is the centre focal point for them in all discussions.”

Meanwhile another client, who did not want to be named, used the services of the firm’s litigation team and says he was particularly impressed by “the quality of senior counsel briefing and how they make it easier for clients to work with them”.

After using the firm for its M&A, competition law and general corporate and regulatory expertise, Manohar Balwani, chief general manager and company secretary of Power Finance Corporation, is all praise for partner Damini Bhalla, who was lead counsel on the transaction.

“Damini has been astute in her observations, she has been able to point out crucial issues, which we did tend to overlook, and we are glad she drew our attention to these issues as they had a crucial bearing in bringing the matter to fruition,” says Balwani.

Mergermarket data show that L&L Partners advised on 22 M&A transactions in 2019, valued at US$11.7 billion. It advised on nine of India Business Law Journal’s 2019 Deals of the Year, including Power Finance Corporation’s March 2019 acquisition of a 52.6% stake in REC. The firm also picks up seven practice area awards in our Indian Law Firm Awards.

With nearly 60 partners in four offices across India, Trilegal continues its upward trajectory. Its clients in the recent past have included: Leonardo Group, formerly AgustaWestland, which it advised in relation to a bribery investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation and Directorate of Enforcement concerning a helicopter supply contract; Schneider Electric and Temasek, for which the firm obtained merger control clearance for their US$2.1 billion acquisition of Larsen & Toubro’s electric and automation business; and CLP Group, which it advised on the sale of a 40% stake in CLP India and entry into a strategic partnership with Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (Quebec Deposit and Investment Fund).

Clients are appreciative. “The lawyers are technically sound and commercially savvy to appreciate the business needs and to marry them with legal requirements,” says Himanshu Dodeja, head of legal at Blackstone India, who used the firm’s M&A and finance expertise.

Trilegal recently announced that founder partners Rahul Matthan and Karan Singh are to step down from its management committee to make way for an elected committee comprising partners Nishant Parikh and Sridhar Gorthi, who is a co-founder. The firm has made several lateral hires, including M&A and PE expert Harsh Maggon from AZB & Partners, Rahul Arora from HSA Advocates and white-collar crime specialist Kunal Gupta from CAM.

Mergermarket data show that Trilegal advised on 31 M&A transactions in 2019, valued at US$4.4 billion. It also advised on four of India Business Law Journal’s 2019 Deals of the Year. These include Brookfield’s acquisition of East West Pipeline from Reliance, where Trilegal advised the lenders on the transaction. The firm also picks up 10 practice area awards in our Indian Law Firm Awards.

ANTI-CORRUPTION & WHITE COLLAR CRIME

Winners
Bharucha & Partners
J Sagar Associates
Kochhar & Co
L&L Partners
Law Offices of Panag and Babu
MZM Legal
Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co

This is the first year that India Business Law Journal’s Indian Law Firm Awards are recognizing firms for excellence in this practice area.

Bharucha & Partners is a 12-partner firm with three offices, and is headed by MP Bharucha. The firm is also recognized for its expertise in arbitration and ADR, and litigation.

Kochhar & Co boasts a team of nine partners and 25 associates focused on white collar crime across its offices. The firm says its practice is multi-jurisdictional and handles matters involving proceedings within and outside India.

Kochhar & Co is headed by Rohit Kochhar and is also recognized for its aviation, fintech, labour and employment, and technology and telecommunications practices.

Adam Cooke, executive director at Multilaw, a network of law firms, says: “I am always confident that when a referral is made to the firm, the response will be expert in nature, timely and cost-effective”. He is all praise for Rohit Kochhar, who he says “is a legend not only in India but among international lawyers globally”. He also commends Bengaluru-based partner Stephen Mathias who “stands out in the technology sector”.

IndiaVince Draa, vice president and general counsel at Grainger International in the US, has used the firm for more than 20 years and says he trusts the “the wisdom and practicality” that Rohit Kochhar brings to every matter. “Kochhar & Co sets the standard in India for service and expertise,” he says.

Law offices of Panag & Babu is a white-collar crime specialist firm with offices in New Delhi and Bengaluru. The practice is led by Sherbir Panag, who says the firm has more than 30 lawyers. Panag takes pride in being part of some bit of the action in “almost all the prominent white collar crime matters in the country”.

MZM Legal is a full-service law firm that has made a name for itself in white-collar crime matters. The firm has two offices and about 50 lawyers, and is led by Zulfiquar Memon.

Armando Caltabiano, CEO of Skardin, a Taiwanese manufacturer, says he has found the firm and partner Waseem Pangarkar “an outstanding partner/company that has supported myself and my team not only in the regular duties that we would have
expected, but also going beyond, and consulting and assisting us in several matters with a proactive approach”.

ARBITRATION & ADR

Winners
AZB & Partners
Bharucha & Partners
Kachwaha & Partners
Khaitan & Co
L&L Partners
P&A Law Offices
Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co

Law firms across India are scrambling to build credible expertise in this practice area. Four firms recognized here are also winners in our Best Overall Law Firms category. The other three are smaller, specialist firms that have noteworthy expertise in this area.

Kachwaha & Partners has long been recognized for its arbitration expertise, and the courts have appointed its managing partner, Sumeet Kachwaha, as a sole arbitrator – Delhi High Court did so three times in 2019. The New Delhi-based firm is currently working towards enforcing two arbitral awards – one from the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the other from the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA) – before the Delhi High Court. The cumulative stakes in the awards exceed US$300 million.

In addition, partner Dharmendra Rautray recently concluded a trial on behalf of a major infrastructure development company before a three-member tribunal, which included a former chief justice of India, in relation to disputes arising out of a road construction project in Andhra Pradesh. The stakes involved approach US$20 million and the award is yet to be made.

P&A Law Offices, headed by Anand Pathak, is recognized for its arbitration and ADR expertise. The firm has been advising and acting for Daiichi Sankyo, through its dispute with the former promoters of Ranbaxy, both during and after the arbitration that led to a substantial award.

The firm is widely praised by clients and peers alike, not only for arbitration, but also for its competition and litigation practices. A client who wishes to remain anonymous, and who used the firm for its competition law and litigation services, says it has a “well informed and good team to support both practices”.

AVIATION

Winners
Advaya Legal
Bhasin & Co
Dua Associates
J Sagar Associates
Kochhar & Co
Link Legal India Law Services
Tyabji Dayabhai

J Sagar Associates, which is one of India’s Best Overall Law Firms, is also recognized for its expertise in aviation. Most other firms honoured here are mid-sized or smaller firms, but all have market-leading expertise and achievements in aviation law.

Advaya Legal continues to be recognized for its aviation expertise. The firm’s clients include GVK Group, which it advised on projects in Indonesia such as during pre-qualification for the development of Komodo Airport, the setting up of a greenfield airport at Yogyakarta, and the operation, management and development of a third airport. The firm also conducts legal due diligence for a US company over issues with the purchase of aircraft registered in India, and provides general corporate services to the Sovika Group, which has interests in the aviation, hospitality, chemicals and lifestyle sectors.

Clients are impressed. Advaya Legal “understands our requirements very well and also responds in a fast-track manner”, says Venkata Paparaju, a general manager at GVK. Meanwhile at Sovika Group, CEO Sahil Mehta lauds managing partner Ramesh Vaidyanathan for assistance with negotiating a joint-venture agreement where the opposite party’s law firm was a “global biggie”. Mehta says: “Ramesh ensured that … our interests were protected fully.”

New Delhi based Bhasin & Co, headed by Lalit Bhasin, continues to be recognized for its experience in dealing with aviation matters. The firm’s clients include Air India, which it represented in the Supreme Court in a matter involving the rights and limitations of an employee withdrawing a resignation.

In addition to its aviation work, the firm wins plaudits for its labour law expertise, particularly from clients in the aviation sector. Meenakshi Kashyap, general manager of industrial relations at Air India, says the firm is an expert in employee-related matters and “no other firm in India can match their expertise”. She adds that the services provided by Lalit Bhasin and partner Nina Gupta in handling legacy issues arising from the merger in 2007 of Indian Airlines and Air India “are exemplary”.

Dua Associates has a widely recognized aviation practice, and partner Sita Khosla and her team are routinely sought out by clients, including Lufthansa and its group of companies. Partner Sangeeta Bhaskar, meanwhile, advised Singapore Airlines on its service diversification plans.

Dua Associates is also recognized for its expertise in environment law-related matters, insurance and reinsurance, and international trade. An international client applauds the firm for having “outstanding skilled lawyers … a very wide range of competences on M&A, tax, labour, commercial law etc … [and] very competitive rates aligned to the ones offered by other market players belonging to the same cluster of law firms.”

A second client, who also remains nameless, says: “Hiring Dua Associates turned out to be the best decision of my litigant career … They don’t have an agenda other than to make their client succeed.”

A full-service firm, Dua Associates has eight offices across India, and in 2019 had the rare honour of two of its partners being elevated to the judiciary. Senthil Kumar Ramamoorthy was a senior partner at the firm’s Chennai office before being appointed additional judge of Madras High Court in February 2019. Similarly, Singapuram Raghavachar Krishna Kumar was a partner at the firm’s Bengaluru office before becoming an additional judge of the Karnataka High Court in September 2019.

Link Legal India Law Services is a 32-partner firm that is recognized for its aviation expertise. The firm’s clients include: GMR Hyderabad International Airport, which it is advising on the airport’s expansion; and Global Infrastructure Partners India, which it is advising on matters regarding the privatization of six
brownfield airports in India. This and other briefs are being handled by partner Milind Jha and his team.

Meanwhile, managing partner Atul Sharma is representing Spice Jet before the CCI in an investigation into an alleged concerted action by various airlines in fixing of fuel surcharges. Link Legal India Law Services is also recognized for its expertise in energy and natural resources, and infrastructure and project finance.

At Tyabji Dayabhai, partner Nimish Vakil is recognized for his proficiency in aviation transactions and litigation.

BANKING & FINANCE

Winners
AZB & Partners
Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas
J Sagar Associates
Juris Corp
Phoenix Legal
SNG & Partners
Talwar Thakore & Associates

Three firms recognized for expertise in this practice area were also honoured as Best Overall Law Firms. The other four are smaller, and in some cases more specialized, but all are considered firms of excellence for banking and finance work.

Juris Corp is sought out for its expertise in this practice area by clients including Standard Chartered Investments and Loans, which it assisted on challenging and complex term loan facilities. In the past year, Juris Corp has advised on 20 transactions that were external commercial borrowings by non-banking financial companies, where it was typically the Indian legal adviser to the finance parties. The firm has offices in three cities and had an eventful 2019 as it put in place many changes to make its working environment more people-friendly. Juris Corp is also recognized for its structured finance and securitization expertise.

Phoenix Legal routinely advises banks and financial institutions. In 2019 it advised on at least three complex transactions carried out by Northern Arc Capital, where Anshul Gupta, director of strategic alliances and new initiatives, says the firm provided crucial support in launching various new products.

Gupta commends in particular partner Aditya Bhargava, whom he describes as “our go-to person [who] is able to offer good perspective on various things and offer solutions to bottlenecks”.

Phoenix Legal receives glowing praise from clients across the full range of practice areas. In addition to banking and finance, it wins awards in the categories of energy and natural resources, insurance and reinsurance, restructuring and insolvency, and structured finance and securitization, its biggest haul of Indian Law Firm Awards to date.

SNG & Partners, headed by Rajesh Gupta, is another winner in the banking and finance category. The practice’s clients include: Gujarat International Finance Tec-City, which it advised on a challenging and high-value external commercial borrowing; and RBL Bank, which it advised on adopting a digital lending process for corporate customers.

The firm is also recognized for its structured finance and securitization expertise.

Talwar Thakore & Associates (TTA) has a highly sought after banking and finance practice. The firm says that its core areas of strength include leveraged and acquisition finance, structured finance, project finance, debt capital markets and trade finance. Its clients in the past year included Nayara Energy, which raised US$750 million in export advances from two Dutch buyer entities, with BP and Trafigura as the ultimate offtakers.

TTA, which has a best-friend relationship with Linklaters, has taken on additional office space as it has been expanding for the past couple of years. The firm is also recognized for its expertise in structured finance and securitization matters.

CAPITAL MARKETS

Winners
AZB & Partners
Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas
IndusLaw
J Sagar Associates
Khaitan & Co
S&R Associates
Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co

Five of the firms being honoured in this category have been on this list for some years. This suggests once again that clients take few chances when it comes to their choice of legal adviser for capital markets transactions. The two new entrants – IndusLaw and JSA – have expanded their expertise in the area, and clients and peers alike have clearly taken note.

IndusLaw has had an eventful year as it has looked to build on its successful private equity and venture capital practice and draw in capital markets expertise. The firm achieved this in the last quarter of 2019, when Manan Lahoty and a large team of capital markets lawyers joined from L&L Partners. They have since advised the global coordinators and book-running lead managers on the US$284 million qualified institutional placement offering of RBL Bank.

Describing Lahoty as “knowledgeable, client centric [and] practical” Jaideep Iyer, head of strategy at RBL Bank, says he was happy with the services provided on account of the firm’s “expertise on subject matter and quick turnaround times”.

IndusLaw is recognized also for its private equity and venture capital practice. It advised Wickedride, which operates scooter rental service Bounce, when the company attracted a US$72 million investment in June 2019.

S&R Associates has a wealth of expertise with capital markets transactions and has been recognized for several years running. The firm has offices in New Delhi and Mumbai, and routinely acts on the largest and most high-profile transactions. In 2019, this included: advising Vodafone Idea on its US$3.5 billion rights issue, which was the largest rights issue by an Indian company to date; and advising the lead managers of the March 2019 Embassy Office Parks `47.5 billion (US$625 million) IPO, which was the first listing by a real estate investment trust in India.

The firm is also recognized for its M&A expertise, which was sought by McDonald’s for the acquisition by its affiliate of a 50% stake in Connaught Plaza Restaurant. This was the former joint venture partner of McDonald’s in north and east India, which had been a source of disputes.

COMPETITION & ANTITRUST

Winners
AZB & Partners
Chandhiok & Mahajan
Khaitan & Co
Lakshmikumaran & Sridharan
Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co
Talwar Thakore & Associates
Trilegal

With the CCI now firmly part of India’s legal and regulatory landscape, antitrust expertise is invaluable. Our list of top firms in this category includes four firms that are also winners of our Best Overall Law Firms award. The other three are smaller firms with highly skilled lawyers who have built venerable reputations in this area.

Chandhiok & Mahajan is one such firm, and clearly punches above its weight with respect to competition and antitrust. The firm reports that it has added nine lawyers in the past year. It recently represented Bentley Systems when the CCI dismissed information filed by a complainant and declined to hold its trade practices as anti-competitive. It also represented Indorama Ventures when it obtained the CCI’s unconditional approval for its acquisition of a controlling stake in Indo Rama Synthetics.

Lakshmikumaran & Sridharan is recognized for its expertise in competition and antitrust law, as well as IP enforcement, international trade and taxation. The full-service firm has added four partners in the past year and opened an office in Kochi. It is currently representing Honda Motors as it challenges a Delhi High Court ruling before the Supreme Court.

The competition law and antitrust practice at Talwar Thakore & Associates has moved in-house after a quasi-merger with an independent practice run by Vinod Dhall, a former head of the CCI, dissolved in February 2019. Ram Kumar, who was previously at Dhall’s practice, now leads TTA’s practice and is a partner at the firm.

Clients have included the German industrial gases company Line, and 21st Century Fox, which the firm represented in relation to its acquisition by Walt Disney.

CORPORATE & COMMERCIAL

Winners
Fox Mandal & Associates
India Law Offices
Indian Law Partners
LexCounsel
MD&T Partners
Singh & Associates
Veritas Legal

In this category we look beyond India’s largest full-service law firms and recognize some of the most accomplished mid-sized firms that have received glowing endorsements from clients and peers for their corporate and commercial work.

First among equals in this category is Fox Mandal & Associates, led by Shuva Mandal, a full-service firm that is again recognized for its expertise.

Manoj Paul, general manager – India and South Asia at Heat and Control, applauds the firm for providing “excellent and prompt advice on varied issues faced by us”, in particular when the company acquired a factory in central India. He commends Chennai-based partners Jeeva Rajagopal and Jayaprakash Padmanaban for their professionalism and quality of advice. Others are similarly complimentary, commenting on what one client describes as the “commercial wisdom” of Bengaluru-based partner Soumitra Banerjee.

India Law Offices is a newcomer to these awards. The eight-partner firm has four offices across India and is headed by Gautam Khurana. Clients include a US buyer of a revenue cycle management company for which India Law Offices undertook legal and financial due diligence of the target.

A client, who wishes to remain anonymous, says the firm “gave good commercial advice when required”. While managing partner Gautam Khurana is complimented for “a balanced view on issues”, partner Abhishek Hans is commended for services provided “on all things taxation”.

Meanwhile, having tapped the firm for its dispute resolution and commercial expertise, Len Ding, general counsel, APAC region, at Finnish chemical company Kemira, says the firm “can provide practical and effective legal support”. He describes Khurana as “responsive, experienced and good at managing a team”.

Indian Law Partners, headed by Gopika Pant, is recognized for its corporate and commercial expertise. The firm continues to expand and for the second year running it reports that it has doubled fee earners. It has had a non-exclusive, best-friend referral arrangement with international law firm Ashurst for several years.

The firm’s clients include: BlueScope Steel, which it is advising on its joint venture with Tata Steel; Soktas Turkey and Soktas India, which it is advising on several corporate commercial matters; and Merlin Entertainments, which it is advising on corporate and commercial matters related to the first Madame Tussauds in India.

Clients are appreciative. One, who wishes to remain anonymous, says lawyers at the firm are “very proactive and approachable at all levels”. Another client, Siddharth Bhaiya, president of SB Indo Advisors, echoes those sentiments: “Indian Law Partners’ knowledge of the latest changes in law, attention to detail and top-notch service were well appreciated.” Pant and partner Vineet Gupta are commended “for their excellent experience of working with clients from all over the world”.

Meanwhile, Richard Gubbins at Ashurst says his firm’s clients “are so pleased that they now instruct Indian Law Partners direct”. He recommends partner Kanika Premnarayen, who manages the firm’s Mumbai office.

LexCounsel is another newcomer to these awards. The four-partner firm reports that in the past year it set up an office in Bhubaneshwar and moved to larger premises in New Delhi to accommodate growing numbers.

The firm’s clients include: Carlsberg, which it advised on structuring and formulating a capacity sharing arrangement with a licensee; Cadila Healthcare, which it advised on an operation and management arrangement for a hospital in Ahmedabad; and the Japanese non-profit Kamonohashi Project, which sought the firm’s advice on the assessment of its operations and a restructuring to be undertaken in India.

Tomomi Shimizu, a senior project manager at Kamonohashi Project, is all praise for the services provided and commends partner Dimpy Mohanty and associate Dhruv Manchanda for their “extraordinarily high skills and competence”. He applauds the firm for collaborating effectively with a second service provider to ensure Kamonohashi obtained the advice it needed.

MD&T Partners is also new to these awards. The full-service Bengaluru-based firm is headed by Mahesh Devaiah and PM Thimmaiah, and has six partners and several longstanding clients. The firm reports that 2019 was a significant year on account of consolidations within its practice and multiple new hires. Its clients include DocOnline, a Swedish online healthcare platform that is setting up in India.

Having used the firm for more than a decade, Rituraj Sinha, managing director at security services and cash logistics provider SIS India, says they have “the ability to take a firm stand on behalf of their client and back it up with sound logic and legal reasoning, which has resulted in the correct outcome for us … I see MD&T Partners as a partner in our group’s evolution and journey through the years.”

Describing the firm as their “go-to firm for all types of contract drafting and negotiations” and commending it for their reasonable fees, CB Ganapathy, group general counsel at home textile company Himatsingka Seide, says: “We have used their services to counter the expertise of counsel abroad and they have been able to provide us with smart workable solutions for transactions, both in India and abroad.”

IndiaAnthem Biosciences chief executive officer, Ajay Bhardwaj, adds: “Having worked with them for the past 13 years, we regard them more as confidants than just legal advisers … So far we haven’t had a misstep from them.”

Singh & Associates is a full-service firm with its principal office in New Delhi and three other offices across India. The firm has about 150 lawyers and is headed by Manoj Singh. It boasts a large number of Chinese clients, and in July 2019 conducted due diligence on behalf of Exim Bank of China on a financing transaction between Chinese telecoms equipment manufacturer ZTE and Vodafone Idea. It also advised on the contractual documents associated with the transaction.

Veritas Legal is a Mumbai-based 50-lawyer firm that has made a name for itself in a relatively short time. The seven-partner firm, headed by Abhijit Joshi, reports that it has concluded more than 100 mergers, acquisitions and private equity transactions, and handled more than 500 litigation filings since it was established in 2015. Clients include Hotel Leela Ventures, which Veritas advised on its US$550 million sale of assets to Brookfield Asset Management.

The transaction was completed in October 2019, and was judged one of India Business Law Journal’s 2019 Deals of the Year.

A client, who wishes to remain anonymous and who used the firm on a private equity transaction, says: “They are approachable and have a very low lead time on documentation.” The client recommends partner Nandish Vyas and senior associate Roshni Rathi.

An in-house lawyer at a pharmaceutical company that used Veritas for an M&A transaction and singles out partner Tushar Raut, who made himself available at her convenience. “The partnering approach and the willingness to support the client beyond office hours to ensure closure as per deadline is something that exceeded my expectations,” she says.

DATA COMPLIANCE & CYBERSECURITY

Winners
Athena Legal
Ikigai Law
J Sagar Associates
Nishith Desai Associates
Spice Route Legal
TechLegis
Trilegal

The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, which became enforceable on 25 May 2018, combined with India’s controversial Personal Data Protection Bill, which is making its way through the country’s parliament, have propelled this previously obscure area of legal practice to centre stage.

New Delhi-based Athena Legal is lauded for its data compliance and cybersecurity expertise. Led by Rajat Prakash, the firm reports it advised a US cybersecurity and data analytics firm on compliance with current and proposed data protection laws in India, and that it has advised multiple IT and fintech companies on their data collection and protection policies.

Marie Cadieu, an in-house lawyer at Laboratoires Gilbert, who used the firm for an intellectual property matter, says partner Siddharth Mahajan and associate Ramanpreet Singh Sidhu “are effective, proactive and very good legal counsel”.

New Delhi-based Ikigai Law is recognized for its data compliance and cybersecurity expertise. The 20-lawyer firm, headed by Anirudh Rastogi, was known as TRA Law until 2018. Its clients include the developers of a telemedicine system that it advised on issues relating to the collection and processing of patient data, and an Indian social media network for which the firm carried out privacy law compliance checks.

Vardhan Koshal, from payment app Fampay, turned to the firm for advice on contracts and banking regulations, and says it provided “constant and high-quality support for our important contracts with parties that are far bigger in size than we are”. Singling out principal associate Aparajita Srivastava, he adds that Ikigai Law excels at communicating legal risks in a manner that is understandable to a business.

Nishith Desai Associates has built a reputation for excellence in a number of practice areas. In these awards, it is recognized for services it provides in the categories of data compliance and cybersecurity, internet and e-commerce, labour and employment, media entertainment and sports, taxation, technology and telecommunications, and for its private client practice.

The firm’s clients include: GIC Infra Holdings, which was part of a consortium of investors that made a US$1.6 billion investment in GMR Infrastructure in May 2019; and Naspers, which it advised on a US$1 billion investment in food delivery platform Swiggy. The latter was one of India Business Law Journal’s 2019 Deals of the Year.

Laurence Lieberman, a partner at Taylor Wessing’s London office, commends the firm for “quality of advice, professional service, [and for its] sector specialists”.

In a short period of time, Spice Route Legal has made a name for itself for all things tech-related. The firm is recognized for its expertise in data compliance, cybersecurity, fintech, and technology and telecommunications.

In the course of 2019, Spice Route Legal, which has about 30 lawyers across four offices, added a third partner. Its clients include: an Indian crowdfunding platform, which it assisted on compliance with European data regulations; a commercial bank, which it advised on data protection compliance in India and the US for a voice-enabled AI banking service; a global mining company, which it advised on data privacy concerns while implementing an internal complaints hotline in India; and several fintech companies such as OKCredit and InstaMojo.

Nitin Goyal, a partner at Blue Lotus Capital, used the firm for advice on requirements for LLP structuring, investment-related agreements and cross-border joint ventures, and says he was impressed with partner Praveen Raju and his team’s ability “to give options and close the documentation and negotiations very quickly”.

New Delhi-based TechLegis is honoured for its expertise in data compliance, cybersecurity, and internet and e-commerce-related matters. Headed by Salman Waris, the firm’s clients include: Bentley Motors, which it advised on privacy and cross-border data transfer issues at its Indian franchisee; World Hotels, a German online hotel platform that the firm is representing on issues over breach of licence agreements by Indian partners; a Hong Kong based OEM, which is setting up an online platform for B2B e-commerce; and a US interactive intelligence company embarking on an e-marketing initiative.

Maryam Hosseini Bonilla, a Dubai-based senior associate at Amereller, consulted TechLegis on a regulatory matter and was “particularly pleased with receiving timely responses to our follow-up questions as well, since that can often be a challenge with lawyers in the region”.

ENERGY & NATURAL RESOURCES

Winners
Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas
HSA Advocates
J Sagar Associates
Link Legal India Law Services
Phoenix Legal
Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co
Trilegal

This is the first year that our awards have a separate category for expertise in this area, which is a reflection of the increasing complexity of the legal ecosystem that confronts companies in the sector, translating into a need for more nuanced legal expertise.

HSA Advocates has a wealth of expertise in all aspects of energy and infrastructure projects, and has advised on several complex transactions. The firm, which is headed by Hemant Sahai, takes pride in being at the forefront of developments in project finance and public-private partnerships (PPPs).

The 120-lawyer firm reports that it has added significantly to its capacity since the beginning of 2019, with 12 lateral hires at partner level across its four offices – two joined the infrastructure and project finance team –bringing the total to 30 partners.

The firm’s clients include government and private entities including: an oil and gas company that it represented in an international commercial arbitration in the UK in a complex dispute over a breach of contract; Power Finance Corporation, which it advised in a debt financing transaction for a Wind Three Renergy wind power project in Gujarat; City Industrial Development Corporation, which it advised on matters regarding the Navi Mumbai international airport project; National Industrial Corridor Development & Implementation Trust and Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor Development Corporation, for which HSA Advocates is the sole legal adviser regarding development of industrial townships and integrated manufacturing clusters in three southern states; and the government of Cambodia, which the firm advised regarding an operation and maintenance arrangement for the establishment of warehouse facilities.

ENVIRONMENT

Winners
Dua Associates
Enviro Legal Defence Firm
HSA Advocates
J Sagar Associates
Khaitan & Co
Singhania & Partners
Trust Legal

The addition of this practice area to the list of categories in our awards reflects a rapidly increasing demand for expertise in the category. While several of the larger firms are at the forefront in the area, a number of smaller firms and niche practices are also commanding market-leading positions.

A prime example is Enviro Legal Defence Firm, which is headed by Sanjay Upadhyay. The New Delhi-based firm benefits from having two former senior bureaucrats with relevant experience as advisers.

Singhania & Partners, which is headed by Ravi Singhania, is a full-service firm with four offices across India. It is recognized for its expertise in environment, labour and employment law.

Clients of its environment practice include Italmatch Chemicals, which it advised on its acquisition of Afton Chemical. Following legal due diligence, the firm identified an environmental risk arising from the proposed change in location of a chemical manufacturing unit in India. The client took this on board and modified the terms of the acquisition.

An international client who used Singhania & Partners describes how the firm was of help when it risked being cheated by its Indian partner in a situation that appeared to be heading towards insolvency. “Singhania & Partners was directly on hand and actively supported us to prevent the outflow of value.” The client commends in particular partners Arjun Anand and Rohit Jain. “Both have a very quick grasp, work highly professionally and are 100% reliable.”

Trust Legal, headed by Sudhir Mishra, is a four-partner firm with offices in New Delhi, Noida and Kochi. The firm prides itself on its record in environmental litigation. Its clients include: the Karnataka chapter of the Confederation of Real Estate Developers Association of India, which it represented in the Supreme Court; National Green Tribunal in a dispute over zoning regulations in Bangalore; and Tata Consultancy Services, which it acted for in a dispute with a state government over environmental law principles in a project.

A client, who wishes to remain anonymous, commends partner Petal Chandok and says Trust Legal’s lawyers are “sincere, meticulous, diligent and prompt”.

In addition to the environment, the firm has built a strong reputation for its other niche practices in media and entertainment, healthcare and litigation.

FINTECH

Winners
AZB & Partners
Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas
J Sagar Associates
Kochhar & Co
Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co
Spice Route Legal
Trilegal

This is the first year that our awards are recognizing law firms in this practice area and, as can be expected in finance-related fields, large well-established firms dominate the winners’ table. However, the inclusion of Spice Route Legal is not only a strong endorsement of the firm’s expertise in this area, but also a demonstration of how emergent practice areas can be market disruptors, enabling fast-moving niche firms to muscle in and compete with large firms at the highest level.

INFRASTRUCTURE & PROJECT FINANCE

Winners
Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas
Desai & Diwanji
HSA Advocates
L&L Partners
Link Legal India Law Services
Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co
Trilegal

Excellence in this practice area continues to be found in the larger full-service firms, and four of our winners are also honoured as Best Overall Law Firms. The three other firms recognized here have won the respect of their peers and clients for their expertise in this field.

Desai & Diwanji is a 22-partner full-service firm with offices in Mumbai, Gurugram and New Delhi. Headed by Vishwang Desai, the firm advises on infrastructure finance transactions. Among many noteworthy deals, it represented KSH Infra, a Pune-based warehouse and logistical parks developer, when Morgan Stanley acquired a majority stake in it in February 2019.

INSURANCE & REINSURANCE

Winners
Dua Associates
Khaitan & Co
L&L Partners
Majmudar & Partners
Phoenix Legal
Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co
Tuli & Co

As the Indian insurance market grows and foreign investment thresholds are amended, lawyers with expertise in the area are actively being sought out. Once again, three firms honoured in this area are winners of our Best Overall Law Firms award. Others are mid-sized firms that are recognized for their specialist expertise in this practice area.

Majmudar & Partners enjoys a strong reputation for its insurance and reinsurance work, which includes advice on the regulatory regime and on transactions. The firm’s clients include Cigna, which has long sought its expertise.

Tuli & Co is once again recognized for its insurance and reinsurance expertise. The firm reports that the past 12 months have been particularly busy with a manifold increase in the number of high-value litigations, mergers and acquisitions, arbitrations and claims, and coverage matters. As a result, it has hired 15 more lawyers and taken on additional office space. Tuli & Co works closely with Kennedys’ network of international offices.

The firm’s clients include Indian insurers and insurance intermediaries, foreign investors and Indian promoters of insurance companies.

Diwakar Sheoran, the senior manager of liability claims at ICICI Lombard General Insurance, commends managing partner Neeraj Tuli for having “a very good standing in the international market with reinsurers”. He is also appreciative of partner Mandakini Khanna “as she understands our sense of urgency and reciprocates”.

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY ENFORCEMENT

Winners
Anand and Anand
Inttl Advocare
K&S Partners
Lakshmikumaran & Sridharan
Remfry & Sagar
RK Dewan & Co
Saikrishna & Associates

Anand and Anand continues to be India’s most highly rated IP firm for both IP rights enforcement and prosecution. It dominated the nominations and endorsements received in these categories. Among its many appreciative clients is Pfizer, where Shahan Islam, senior corporate counsel, says: “I have been working with them extensively for many years and on countless litigations. They always do great work.”

IndiaThe firm’s clients in the past year have included: Dubai Islamic Bank, which the firm assisted during efforts to register its trademark in India; and Christian Louboutin, which turned to Anand and Anand to help restrain the online selling of its products. The firm, which is led by managing partner Pravin Anand, also represented Philips when it was awarded `31.5 million (US$410,000) in damages in a copyright and design infringement case; and Colgate Palmolive in an action to thwart the import of goods bearing a similar mark.

Regarded also as the country’s leading IP litigation firm, Anand and Anand reports it hired 30 senior IP professionals in 2019. The firm has 26 partners and more than 100 lawyers.

Inttl Advocare is an IP rights-focused firm with about 50 lawyers headed up by Hemant Singh. The firm’s clients comprise domestic and international companies, including: Novartis, for which it has undertaken patent infringement action; LG, for which it has filed more than 250 patents in India; and Adidas, which it assisted in obtaining an injunction and seizure order.

The firm reports that it has been on an aggressive expansion drive, and has added both lawyers and technical experts.

K&S Partners also retains its place in the top tier of India’s intellectual property law firms. Headed by Jyoti Sagar, the firm has more than 100 lawyers in five offices across India and continues to win endorsements from many clients and peers.

Lakshmikumaran & Sridharan is recognized for its expertise in intellectual property enforcement and prosecution. The firm’s clients include: Monsanto, which it assisted with a writ petition before the Delhi High Court challenging an order of the Intellectual Property Appellate Board that refused the grant of a patent application; JCB, when it challenged an order of the patent office revoking a patent; and TVS Motors, when it defended a patent application that was being opposed.

The firm prides itself on its capability to draft patent specifications and applications that can be directly filed as international applications and national applications in the US and the EU.

Remfry & Sagar provides a wealth of expertise for IP owners. The firm has three offices, 18 partners, and 110 lawyers and other professionals. It prides itself on having 8,000 clients across 70 countries, and says that in the past year in India, nearly 15% of all inbound trademark and patent filings, and 17% of all inbound design filings, were made through the firm.

Expressing his appreciation, Norbert Hebeis at Friedrich Graf Von Westphalen & Partner in Freiburg says Remfry & Sagar lawyers “work on a very high professional level as far as their legal knowledge is concerned, as well as their reliability and responsiveness”.

An international client who wished to remain anonymous is all praise for managing partner Ashwin Julka and partner Samta Mehra, whom he says “are both very reliable lawyers and understand the importance of ensuring the highest quality in their legal work, and being available when required”.

Partner Pankaj Soni is singled out for praise by Andrew Zidel, a partner at Botos Churchill IP Law in the US. Zidel says lawyers at Remfry & Sagar have “separated themselves from other Indian counsel because they provide insightful and clear analyses and recommendations, and they are proactive in their communication”.

RK Dewan & Co, a leading IP boutique, is also recognized for its expertise in this practice area. The firm has eight offices in India and one in China, and is headed by Mohan Dewan.

Saikrishna & Associates, headed by Saikrishna Rajagopal, is once again recognized for its IP enforcement expertise. The firm says it has grown exponentially in the past year. It has also expanded its footprint with an office in Mumbai.

The firm’s clients include: the Indian Performing Right Society, which it is assisting in a suit against a radio broadcaster that will help establish the right of authors of literary and musical works to receive royalties; and Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, which it acted for in opposing an injunction against Astra Zeneca’s drug, Ticagrelor.

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY PROTECTION

Winners
Anand and Anand
Krishna & Saurastri Associates
Lall & Sethi
LexOrbis
Rahul Chaudhry & Partners
Remfry & Sagar
SS Rana & Co

Only two firms, Anand and Anand and Remfry & Sagar, have the unique distinction of winning awards for both IP enforcement and IP protection.

Krishna & Saurastri Associates continues to be recognized for its IP protection expertise. The firm has five offices and is led by Sunil Krishna, who has valuable expertise in trademark prosecution, and Manish Saurastri, who specializes in patent and trademark prosecution, transactions and litigation.

New Delhi-based Lall & Sethi has built an enviable reputation for excellence in IP rights work. Clients of the four-partner firm include Fila, Hugo Boss and Coca-Cola.

Sanjit Kaur Batra, head of legal for South Asia at Dupont, commends the firm for providing “business-friendly and pragmatic strategies and advice”, and for delivering on committed timelines. She is particularly appreciative of partner Jyotideep Kaur.

IndiaLexOrbis, headed by Manisha Singh, continues to expand its patent prosecution team. It reports that it added 11 patent lawyers in 2019, and now has 60 patent lawyers across its three offices. The firm also reports that it is the exclusive IP service provider to India’s biggest public sector oil company, Indian Oil Corporation.

Rahul Chaudhry & Partners continues to be recognized for its IP rights expertise. The firm is headed by Rahul Chaudhry, and reports that it obtained a large amount of additional work from existing and new clients in 2019. Its clients include Porsche, Exon Corporation and Exxon Mobil, for which it acted in a trademark infringement matter. Clients are appreciative. Grant Monachino at Dinsmore in the US says: “What stands out for me is how high [the firm] sets the bar for the service they provide, routinely gets over that bar and makes exceptional service par for the course for the firm.”

Bridgette Fitzpatrick, vice president and associate general counsel for intellectual property at Authentic Brands Group in New York, says they have more than 160 registrations in India covering their many brands and “each is well represented by Rahul’s firm”.

SS Rana & Co is another New Delhi-based firm that deserves recognition for its IP work. Headed by Vikrant Rana, the firm says it has been proactive in IP filing and prosecution and has filed more than 1,000 patent, trademark and design applications.

Katie Oliver, a partner at Albright IP in the UK, says lawyers at the firm are “courteous, proactive and very fair costings are given”.

The praise is echoed by Joseph Agostino at Greenberg Traurig in the US, who says: “They are thorough and organized … They achieve great results and have competitive pricing.”

INTERNATIONAL TRADE

Winners
APJ-SLG Law Offices
Clarus Law Associates
DGS Associates
Dua Associates
Economic Laws Practice
Lakshmikumaran & Sridharan
Sarvada Legal

The addition of this category to India Business Law Journal’s annual awards reflects the growing importance of this practice area.

New Delhi-based APJ-SLG Law Offices is a niche firm headed by Sharad Bhansali, who has particular expertise in World Trade Organization (WTO) and other trade law-related matters.

New Delhi is also home to Clarus Law Associates, a three-partner firm that is recognized for its international trade expertise. Partner RV Anuradha heads this practice.

DGS Associates, headed by Ameeta Duggal, is another New Delhi firm with expertise in international trade. The firm’s clients include three Korean steel companies that were being investigated for anti-dumping. DGS Associates recently produced a book on export controls in India.

Sarvada Legal, based once again in New Delhi, is recognized for its strong international trade practice. The firm’s clients include the Indian government, which it has assisted in cases at the WTO, and domestic and international companies that it assists during investigations by the Indian government.

“If you need to deal with international trade matters in India, that’s the place to reach out to,” says Renato Antonini, Brussels-based partner at Jones Day. Singling out partner Atul Sharma, Antonini says: “I trust Atul’s judgment 100% and he has never let me down. He is very reactive and perfect with clients. Truly a great trade lawyer and certainly the best I know in India.

IndiaSarvada Legal, which was known as Seetharaman & Associates until June 2019, is led by S Seetharaman.

INTERNET & E-COMMERCE

Winners
Inttl Advocare
Keystone Partners
Khaitan & Co
Mason & Associates
Nishith Desai Associates
TechLegis
Trilegal

Expertise in this practice area is often found among the niche players in the market. The exceptions are Khaitan & Co, Trilegal and Nishith Desai Associates, which all excelled in this category in our nominations process.

A specialist dispute resolution firm, Keystone Partners is recognized for its expertise in the sector. The firm’s clients include Uber, which it has represented before the high courts in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

Headed by Neel Mason, Mason & Associates is a New Delhi-based IP boutique that receives a lot of recognition for its technology and internet work. The firm counts Google as one of its clients, and in an indication of the reputation its lawyers command among internet companies, Ankit Relan, an associate partner at the firm, was poached by Facebook in June last year.

LABOUR & EMPLOYMENT

Winners
HSB Partners
Kochhar & Co
Majmudar & Partners
Nishith Desai Associates
Poovayya & Co
Singhania & Partners
Trilegal

Chennai-based HSB Partners is recognized for its expertise in this practice area. A mid-sized firm, it counts many of south India’s larger companies among its clients, including those in the automotive sector, which in the face of the recent slowdown have required advice on labour issues.

Bengaluru-based Poovayya & Co also received recognition in this practice area. The firm’s clients include IT companies, which it assists with employee documentation, including with regard to terminations.

LITIGATION

Winners
Agarwal Law Associates
Anand and Anand
Bharucha & Partners
DMD Advocates
DSK Legal
Karanjawala & Co
Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co

Litigation – and dispute resolution in general – continues to be in high demand. Most of India’s full-service corporate law firms have built up strong expertise in the area, but the top litigators are often found in mid-sized and smaller specialist firms. The exception to this is Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co, one of India’s largest firms, which as in previous years performed exceptionally well in the nominations for this category.

Agarwal Law Associates has long been recognized for its expertise in this area. The firm is led by brothers Mahesh Agarwal and Rishi Agarwal. It has a busy practice in the Supreme Court, where it files as an advocate-on-record and acted on three of India Business Law Journal’s 2019 Deals of the Year in the disputes category.

Bharucha & Partners, which is headed by MP Bharucha, is recognized for its litigation expertise. The firm represented WS Industries in its dispute with two stock exchanges over penalties levied. This dispute was one of India Business Law Journal’s 2019 Deals of the Year.

DMD Advocates is a newcomer to this category of award, and the firm is reputed for its record with tax disputes. Clients include Home Credit, where Vikas Aggarwal, head of tax, says the firm has a “marvellous record in handling tax litigation”. Meanwhile, Martin McCoy, senior vice president at SMBC Aviation Capital, commends the firm for being “responsive, diligent and professional”.

DSK Legal, headed by Anand Desai, has been expanding aggressively in the past year, and has hired a team of 26 lawyers from HSA Legal. It has also hired lawyers to bolster its litigation and media and entertainment practices, for which it has built an enviable reputation. Clients and peers are impressed. While commending the firm for “providing solution-oriented albeit legally protected services”, a client who did not want to be named singles out managing partner Anand Desai and partner Sajit Suvarna for “their technical skill and innate ability to offer simple solutions for various issues”.

A second client, who similarly wished to remain anonymous, singles out partner Chandrima Mitra, a media and entertainment specialist, for providing advice that “in many instances … helped avoid potential pitfalls and losses on deals, [and] avoided us being exposed to potential litigation”.

Atul Juvle, general counsel for India and South Asia at Schindler, is all praise for DSK Legal’s lawyers, who he says are accessible and provide value for money. He says the firm is “what we call a customer’s delight”.

IndiaNew Delhi-based Karanjawala & Co is a litigation-focused firm that has been involved in several high-profile matters. Headed by Raian Karanjawala, the 110-lawyer firm’s clients include Tata Sons, which it represented recently at the NCLAT in a matter linked to the 2016 removal of Cyrus Mistry as Tata’s chairman of the board.

MEDIA ENTERTAINMENT & SPORT

Winners
Anand and Anand
DSK Legal
Fidus Law Chambers
LawNK
Naik Naik & Co
Nishith Desai Associates
Saikrishna & Associates

Our inclusion of sport in this category is a reflection of an evolving demand for sports law advice, which is an emerging, albeit somewhat niche, practice area.

Expertise in media and entertainment at Anand and Anand is available within the Mumbai operations of the firm, which is headed by Priyanka Khimani and is a merger of Anand and Anand with Khimani & Associates. Now in its third year, the merged firm has a second office in Mumbai and continues to represent a number of celebrity clients.

Delhi-based Fidus Law Chambers is recognized by peers and clients for its IP rights, and increasingly for its media and entertainment practices. The firm’s clients include fantasy sports platform Dream11, for which it won an injunction – the first to date in online fantasy cricket – in a trademark infringement matter at Delhi High Court.

Commending the managing partner Shwetasree Majumder for her “immense knowledge, expertise, and her approachability”, Amol Apte, vice president, legal, at Dream11, says the firm’s “timeliness in providing business-friendly solutions is par excellence”.

Bengaluru-based LawNK, headed by Nandan Kamath, is a boutique law firm that specializes in sports, media, technology and intellectual property laws. The firm has set up a sports law and policy think tank that, among other things, organizes an annual conference bringing together sports lawyers, policy experts, in-house counsel and others.

Mumbai-based Naik Naik & Co, which is headed by Ameet Naik, is recognized for its expertise in media and entertainment. The firm’s clients include several production companies and entertainment personalities, and it has a referral agreement with international law firm Gowling WLG.

MERGERS & ACQUISITIONS

Winners
AZB & Partners
Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas
Khaitan & Co
Platinum Partners
S&R Associates
Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co
Trilegal

Expertise in M&A is possessed by law firms big and small, but the largest and most high-profile mergers are typically the domain of India’s largest general practice law firms. There are, however, exceptions to this, and Platinum Partners and S&R Associates are testament to that.

Platinum Partners is a mid-sized firm of about 50 lawyers, led by Karam Daulet Singh, which is recognized for its M&A expertise. In 2019, it represented the owners of Oakridge schools when the business was acquired by Hong Kong-based Nord Anglia Education.

The firm was also legal counsel on two of India Business Law Journal’s 2019 Deals of the Year in the M&A category. It advised Merck on the US$4.2 billion sale of its global consumer health business to Procter & Gamble, and also advised on UPL’s US$3 billion acquisition of Arysta LifeScience.

POLICY & REGULATION

Winners
AZB & Partners
Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas
Hammurabi & Solomon Partners
Khaitan & Co
L&L Partners
PLR Chambers
Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co

Keeping an ear to the ground is vital to meet the challenges of doing business in India, and legal advice on policy and regulation continues to be in high demand. Key partners at the largest full-service firms bolster their expertise in this area by being on government-appointed committees, think tanks and industry bodies.

Although the practice tends to be dominated by the largest full-service firms, some smaller players, including PLR Chambers and Hammurabi & Solomon Partners, have made significant inroads and are now recognized and highly sought after for their expertise in this area.

Headed by Manoj Kumar, Hammurabi & Solomon Partners provides invaluable insights into policy and regulation. It takes pride in being “regularly leaned-on for thought leadership by government, private bodies and think tanks on critical law regulations and policy issues”, and continues to work with a tobacco company that faces challenges on account of the illegal manufacture and trade of cigarettes in India.

PLR Chambers, headed by Suhaan Mukerji, has many lawyers with experience working with government-appointed committees, including Mukerji himself, who was on a recent working group for a competition law review committee. The firm reports that it assisted the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways in drafting recent changes to the legal framework for motor vehicles, which received legislative assent in 2019.

PRIVATE CLIENT PRACTICE

Winners
Agama Law Associates
Assentio Legal
AZB & Partners
Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas
Nishith Desai Associates
Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co
Vashi and Vashi

This practice area makes its appearance for the first time in our awards, and is a reflection of the growing volume of work from private clients, who are typically high net-worth individuals (HNWIs).

Mumbai-based Agama Law Associates, headed by Archana Balasubramanian and Nitin Jain, has made itself a name in the market and clients are appreciative. Girish Gadgil, head of legal for the auto sector of Mahindra & Mahindra, commends the firm for its “timely and practical advice”. Reema Thakker, legal head at fintech company Suvidhaa Infoserve, is similarly complimentary, saying the firm “has consistently blown us away with their ideas, and the implementation of those ideas, with a fantastic turnaround time”.

Assentio Legal is a Chennai-based firm that is recognized for its expertise in this practice area. The firm, which is led by Thriyambak Kannan and Rohan Cherian, reports it has assisted with the leasing of an island in the Maldives.

It receives accolades aplenty from clients for its work, in this practice area and others. Vivek Singh, an in-house lawyer at Gates India, says the firm is “very prompt and accurate” in its work. Rahul Mascarenhas, legal head at India Cements Group, says: “Assentio Legal is a class act, with standards that are on par with any leading Bombay law firm … and I find that they have fast turned into my go-to law firm for any matters, large or small.” Assentio Legal opened an office in Bengaluru in January 2019.

Mumbai-based Vashi and Vashi is a dispute resolution focused firm that is also recognized for its work with private clients. Commending managing partner Vivek Vashi, a client finds “his analysis incisive, his spadework thorough, and his approach highly pragmatic and commercially minded”. Vashi is also commended for having “built up an able team of professionals to support his practice”. In 2019, the firm moved to a larger office. As part of its private client practice, it has advised and vetted documents including that for a family trust for a HNWI who has corporate interests both within and outside India.

PRIVATE EQUITY & VENTURE CAPITAL

Winners
AZB & Partners
Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas
IC Universal Legal
IndusLaw
Khaitan & Co
Samvad Partners
Vertices Partners

Despite the intense competition for work in this area, there has been little change within the ranks of the most sought-after firms.

IC Universal Legal is the only newcomer to this award category for 2020. The firm acted on a US$27 million investment in agro-tech startup AgroStar by Bertelsmann India. Chennai-based senior partner Kavita Vijay led the firm’s team.

Samvad Partners is well respected for its expertise in this field. The firm acted for Zomato when it raised US$40 million from Glade Brook Capital in April 2019.

Abhijeet Vijayvergiya, CEO of Singapore-based Nektar AI says Samvad is “very helpful to young companies, diligent and thorough in their work”. Commending in particular partner Junaira Rahman and associate Sanjana Mathur, Vijayvergiya says: “They have generated a lot of trust from us due to their commitment and subject matter expertise.”

IndiaMumbai-based Vertices Partners, which is headed by Vinayak Burman, is a young firm that has quickly built up a recognized practice in this area. The firm acted on 20 private equity transactions in 2019, according to deal tracker Venture Intelligence. These included acting for real estate platform NoBroker.com, when it attracted US$51 million in June from a group of investors led by General Atlantic.

Describing Burman as “outstanding”, Hetal Gandhi, the managing director at Tano Capital, says Vertices Partners is “highly recommended”. In October last year, Vertices Partners opened an office in Gurugram.

REAL ESTATE

Winners
Anup S Shah Law Firm
DSK Legal
Federal & Co
Kanga & Co
Khaitan & Co
Vidhii Partners
Wadia Ghandy & Co

The best real estate expertise is typically found outside the orbit of the larger firms. Many are in Mumbai and Bengaluru, where a sizeable number of lucrative real estate transactions take place.

Anup S Shah Law Firm is recognized for its expertise in real estate litigation and transactions. In the past year, the Bengaluru-based firm has seen one of its partners, Suraj Govindaraj, elevated to Karnataka High Court. The firm has also taken on 10 lawyers. Its clients include the Embassy Group, Puravankara and Salarpuria Sattva – all of which have a sizeable presence in Bengaluru.

Federal & Co is a Mumbai-based real estate firm headed by Muffazal Federal. It has about 15 lawyers and focuses on complex real estate transactional work and dispute resolution.

Kanga & Co is also Mumbai-based, and is recognized for its expertise in real estate transactions and advisory. The firm’s team is commended for providing “a solution-oriented approach to various complex transactions”, as well as being “very meticulous, focused and balanced in their advice”. Clients applaud senior partner Shailesh Vaidya and partner Rishiraj Bhatt for providing advice that is “very balanced and correct in law”, as well as associate partner Shuchii Pathak for transaction documentation and corporate due diligence.

Vidhii Partners is recognized once again for excellence in this practice area. Headed by Manish Desai and Sowjanya Menon, the full-service firm’s real estate clients include Adani Realty, India Bulls Real Estate and Kalpataru Group.

Wadia Ghandy & Co, a full-service firm, is recognized for its real estate expertise and is also commended by clients for its work in a range of other practice areas. A client who used the firm for its banking and finance expertise says: “The partners at Wadia Ghandhy are insightful, commercially savvy and possess the right market knowledge.”

RESTRUCTURING & INSOLVENCY

Winners
Argus Partners
AZB & Partners
Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas
Dhir & Dhir Associates
L&L Partners
Phoenix Legal
Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co

Corporate India continues to grapple with insolvency and indebtedness, and the resulting legal work involving the country’s relatively new bankruptcy regime is keeping lawyers and law firms busy up and down the country.

Dhir & Dhir Associates, with its main office in New Delhi, continues to be sought after for its expertise in this practice area. The firm acted for the holding company of Jaypee Infratech before the NCLAT, and is handling the insolvency of Deccan Chronicle Holdings. Led by Alok Dhir, the firm continues to be on an upward trajectory. It recently added a former civil servant to its real estate practice and hired 14 lawyers across its four offices.

Mumbai-based Argus Partners is an up-and-coming general practice firm that has benefited greatly from the current glut of insolvency work, developing a recognized expertise in the field. Earlier this year, the firm advised a consortium of lenders led by Bank of Baroda on the resolution of Garden Silk Mills’ stressed assets.

This was particularly significant because it was one of the first few resolutions carried out under the RBI’s circular dated 7 June 2019. This circular replaced an earlier one issued by the RBI, on 12 February 2018, which was subsequently deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

Argus Partners receives extensive praise from clients for insolvency and other practice areas. Dashmi Kokare, manager of legal at Sterling Wilson, used lawyers at the Kolkata office of the firm and says: “The entire team in Kolkata do an excellent and outstanding job.”

Scott Garfield, at Bain Capital, is all praise for the firm’s managing partner Krishnava Dutt: “Krishnava’s direct banking experience helped immensely in solving problems and in commercial/legal negotiations.”

Meanwhile, Anand Vardhan, president of legal at Piramal Capital and Housing Finance, explains that “a recently concluded complex refinancing transaction … was concluded within a timeframe of three days. It was the dedication and commitment of the team with an eye for details that made the conclusion of the transaction possible.”

SHIPPING & MARITIME

Winners
ALMT Legal
Bose & Mitra
Brus Chambers
Crawford Bayley & Co
K Singhania & Co
Mulla & Mulla & Craigie Blunt & Caroe
ZBA

Shipping law is very much the domain of Mumbai firms, and all of the winners in this category this year hail from the city.

ALMT Legal is recognized for its shipping and maritime experience. Partner Komal Joshi is commended for her expertise in this and other practice areas.

Bose & Mitra, headed by Amitava Majumdar, has a well-regarded practice in this area. The firm reports that it expanded during the past year and now has 19 fee-earners. Its clients include ship owners and commodity traders, as over the years the firm has moved from pure shipping into insurance, trade and trade finance matters.

Brus Chambers, headed by Shrikant Hathi, has built an enviable reputation for maritime law expertise.

Crawford Bayley & Co is a full-service firm with reputable expertise in this area. Partner Prashant Asher heads the practice.

K Singhania & Co (previously known as Singhania & Co) is headed by Krrishan Singhania and has recognized expertise in shipping and maritime law.

Mulla & Mulla & Craigie Blunt & Caroe is a Mumbai-based full-service firm. It is recognized for its shipping and maritime expertise and for its ship finance work. Partner Shardul Thacker heads the practice and represents ship owners and P&I clubs.

ZBA is recognized for its shipping and maritime experience. Led by Zarir Bharucha, the firm is also known for its ship financing capabilities and regularly acts for leading international and domestic clients, including financial institutions, shipping companies and P&I clubs. The firm has a banking and finance practice, and a client who used it says: “They exceeded our expectations as they go beyond their legal role.” Another client commended the firm for its “very quick response for our queries in all our transactions”.

STRUCTURED FINANCE & SECURITIZATION

Winners
AZB & Partners
Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas
Dhaval Vussonji & Associates
J Sagar Associates
Juris Corp
Phoenix Legal
Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co

The winners of this category are typically firms that have strong banking and finance practices. Four of them are also winners of our Best Overall Law Firms award.

With offices in Mumbai, Bengaluru and Delhi, Dhaval Vussonji & Associates has recognized experience in structured finance and securitization transactions. Managing partner Dhaval Vussonji has expertise in the practice area.

Juris Corp is highly regarded for its banking and finance work in general, and in the specialist field of securitization and structured finance is regarded by clients as a go-to firm.

TAXATION

Winners
Advaita Legal
AZB & Partners
BMR Legal
Economic Laws Practice
Lakshmikumaran & Sridharan
Nishith Desai Associates
Vaish Associates

Expertise in this practice area is typically found in niche firms. AZB & Partners, which is recognized for both its direct and indirect tax practice, is an exception.

Mid-sized Advaita Legal has evolved into more than a tax firm, but continues to be recognized for its tax experience. In the past year clients have included TDK Electronics, where manager of taxation Ashok Patil describes partner Kamal Sawhney and senior associate Amit Singh as experts who have “thorough knowledge of the subject”.

BMR Legal, headed by Mukesh Butani, continues to be among India’s top tax firms. The firm prides itself on acting on several significant tax disputes on complex tax, treaty and transfer pricing matters, including some that have resulted in landmark judgments.

The tax practice at Economic Laws Practice also receives recognition from clients and peers alike.

Meanwhile Lakshmikumaran & Sridharan is well respected and has been involved in several unique matters including: acting for the commercial arm of India’s space agency before a high court and the Supreme Court in a question about the taxability of satellite activities; several importers as they seek to ensure India keeps its commitments made in international agreements with respect to import duty; and Suez in a tax dispute that is, unusually, being arbitrated. Managing partner V Lakshmikumaran, who is described by an in-house lawyer at Go-MMT as “not only an authority on the subject of taxation but also dedicated to his client’s cause”, leads the practice.

Vaish Associates has a well established practice for both direct and indirect taxation, which receives praise from clients and peers alike. Partner Neeraj Jain heads the firm’s transfer pricing practice, while partner Shammi Kapoor heads indirect tax.

TECHNOLOGY & TELECOMMUNICATIONS

Winners
Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas
DSK Legal
J Sagar Associates
Kochhar & Co
Nishith Desai Associates
Spice Route Legal
Trilegal

This is a practice area where the larger, more established firms have beefed up their expertise and consequently dominate the winners’ table. Spice Route Legal, which has expertise in areas including technology transfer, licensing and purchase agreements, is the only exception.

Vinita Varghese, senior legal counsel at ANI Technologies, the company behind popular ride-sharing service Ola, commends the firm for its “great exposure to top players in the market” and notes that, “their views are not only sound and business-specific, but also provide a market view, thus buffering new initiatives”.

BEST NEW LAW FIRMS

Winners
AP & Partners
Calibre Legal
Lex Consult
Ortis Law Offices
Parinam Law Associates
Pioneer Legal

In this category, our editorial team considers law firms that have been set up during the past two years. We believe the number of winning firms in this category can be indicative of the mood of the market. This year we have six winners – three more than the previous year – which perhaps points to growing confidence among entrepreneurial individuals, both in their inherent ability and the market.

New-Delhi based AP & Partners is a newcomer that many in the market already have their money on. Set up in the second half of 2019 by Anand Prasad, a founding partner of Trilegal, the four partner firm’s clients include the Religare Group, which has been in the midst of high-profile civil and criminal action to disgorge money siphoned off by its erstwhile promoters.

Berges Malu, director, public policy at regional social media app ShareChat, describes AP & Partners as “a strong partner for anyone looking to understand and navigate the Indian market”. Singling out partner Arjun Sinha, who advises technology and media companies, Berges says he and his team think out of the box and help “identify creative solutions in various difficult situations”.

IndiaChennai-based Calibre Legal, set up in April 2019 by Shadaan Mohammed Saipillai, a former head of Phoenix Legal’s Chennai office, and Arun Kurian Joseph, a tax litigator, is another new firm that is expected to go places. The seven-lawyer firm draws accolades from clients from within and outside India.

Niklas Körling, a Stockholm-based partner at Wistrand, commends the new firm for having the “expertise to deal with international, complicated issues” and understanding the importance of quick responses. He says that, thanks to arguments presented by Calibre Legal’s team in the courts, “a quicker” summary judgment was obtained. Other clients commend Calibre Legal for “seamless execution” of transactions and for its contract drafting skills.

Lex Consult is another of this year’s best new law firms established by lawyers who peeled away from Trilegal. Majid Siddiqui and Naresh Pareek, who are described as “wonderful, reliable and warm lawyers who go that extra mile”, set up the Mumbai-based firm in 2018, and have since established a niche for themselves in the market.

Appreciative clients say that even when dealing with startups, which typically have dynamic needs and changeable plans, the firm’s lawyers are “very good at adapting to our needs and making sure we are getting the advice we need”. A client who wishes to remain nameless, and who used Lex Consult during a restructuring exercise, says the firm “delivered beyond traditional advisers”, and that the two partners were closely involved, which was “unlike our past experience with other law firms”.

Ortis Law Offices is the brainchild of Sandeep Grover, a former partner at IndusLaw, and Aditya Nayyar, who was formerly at SAM. Established in August 2019, the seven-lawyer firm is expected to “go places in times to come”, according to N Radhakrishnan, senior VP, legal and taxation, at TTK Prestige. Commending associate Tarang Agarwal and principal associates Ishwer Upneja and Pankhuri Bhardwaj, Radhakrishnan says: “The pedigree of the associates in the firm … shows in the quality of their work.”

Parinam Law Associates is of somewhat older vintage, having been set up in December 2018. Led by Hitesh Jain, the firm began with teams from ALMT Legal and J Sagar Associates. The 10-partner firm has more than 70 lawyers and offices in Mumbai, Pune and Delhi. Practice areas include intellectual property rights, shipping and maritime law, and media and entertainment. A client who used the firm for securities litigation commends partner Paras Parekh for “his ease of access and consistent grounded advice”.

Mumbai-based Pioneer Legal has similarly made waves in the market. The firm was set up in April 2019 by Satish Kishanchandani, a co-founder of DSK Legal. The 22-lawyer firm’s clients have included: private equity player True North in its December 2019 reduction of stake in Meru, and soon after when it invested in Biocon Biologics; and Sumitomo Chemicals in its reverse merger with Excel Crop Care, a BSE and NSE listed company. Both companies were subsidiaries of Japan’s Sumitomo Chemical, and Pioneer Legal says the merger was the first successful domestic reverse merger in 18 years.