Sitesh Mukherjee, a partner and national head of disputes at Trilegal, is leaving the firm after 11 years to go independent and handing over the disputes reins to partner Shankh Sengupta.
Mukherjee says the plan to work as an independent legal counsel had been in the works for the past three years. “When senior founding partner Anand Prasad retired in 2017, it was felt that the firm needed its senior partners to keep things steady,” he told India Business Law Journal. “I also had the unfinished business of building a capable disputes team in Mumbai along the same lines as in New Delhi.”
At Trilegal, Mukherjee led the effort of turning a team of four lawyers into a multifaceted disputes practice based in three cities, with 65 lawyers and six partners. “We succeeded to a large extent in moving away from a purely solicitor-based practice to one where partners and lawyers across the board – not just in niche areas – were regularly appearing and arguing cases in different courts and forums,” he said.
“Of course, for high-stakes matters we would invariably work with a variety of senior counsel, but even here much of the advisory and strategy work would be done within the team.”
Clients were supportive of Mukherjee’s move, but he says he will not carry over any work with him. Mukherjee has been in the legal profession for 27 years and handled corporate-commercial disputes and high-stakes arbitrations.
“Despite all the various commitments as a law firm partner, I continued to look for opportunities to argue my cases,” he says. “Hence, I felt confident about moving into counsel practice.”
Mukherjee has said mentoring young lawyers is something he is keen to devote more time to. “I am making myself available to share my experience with individual lawyers and small and mid-sized firms when they are advising clients in pre-dispute situations, as well as strategy.”
Covid-19 has especially had an impact on young disputes lawyers, with courts tending to important matters or final hearings through videoconferences, which are typically handled by those more senior in the profession.