Magic circle firm Allen & Overy and its Indian best friend, Trilegal, parted ways late last month, ending a five-year referral arrangement.
The agreement was established to take advantage of the anticipated liberalization of the Indian legal market. The lack of progress towards allowing foreign firms to enter India led to termination of the arrangement.
Trilegal and Allen & Overy hope the move will help them build a wide network of relationships, increasing their opportunities to advise on a broader scope of India-related deals.
The firms have handled a string of high-value deals together over the past five years including Bharti Airtel’s US$9 billion acquisition of Kuwait’s Zain Telecom assets in 16 African countries and a US$350 million bank funding for GMR Infrastructure Singapore.
“There is an obvious need to adapt our India strategy to give us, and Trilegal, greater flexibility to both service the needs of our clients and cement our leading market position on India-related work,” Allen & Overy India Group head Jonathan Brayne said. “We have the highest opinion of Trilegal and we look forward to continuing to work with them when the opportunity presents itself, but also to collaborating with other Indian law firms.”
Anand Prasad, a partner at Trilegal, sees liberalization as at least four and a half or five years away.
“Both firms enjoyed working together a lot but, ultimately, we’re a professional organization, we aren’t doing it for personal satisfaction alone,” he told India Business Law Journal. “There’s nothing to stop us from working together,” he added, but “in the absence of liberalization, each firm stands a better chance of increasing its market share by broadening our options for collaboration in the market”.
India’s failure to open its legal market to foreign competition also ended a two-year union between AZB & Partners and Clifford Chance early in 2011. For more on this story, see The end of monogamy? (page 29).