Trilegal: Passing the baton during lockdown

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Nishant Parikh (left) and Sridhar Gorthi (right)

Trilegal recently rolled out a revamped governance structure that saw founding partners Karan Singh and Rahul Matthan make way for an elected two-member management committee (MC) helmed by partners Sridhar Gorthi and Nishant Parikh for a term of three years.

This is the first time the firm has held an election to select MC members, and the first time it has set a term limit for them.

Trilegal also elected a seven-member board for a term of four years to advise the MC for crucial matters. The firm appointed new practice heads for a term of three years, and office heads for the general welfare of each of the firm’s offices.

The change of hands and structural revamp happened during the nationwide lockdown due to COVID-19, when offices were to be kept closed and staff worked from home.

The new MC heads called the transition “really challenging”, but said that the new governance structure had managed to come together to ensure a close working relationship with clients, and communication between lawyers.

“Sridhar and I have worked very closely with the board, the practice group heads, as well as the office heads, to drive the firm forward in these times,” said Parikh. “Obviously, this is a sort of crisis that the world has not seen before, at least for 100 years, and all of us are learning new ways to do business, new ways to deal with each other, and with our clients.”

On the board are partners Matthan, Singh, Akshay Jaitly, Charandeep Kaur, Kosturi Ghosh, Saurabh Bhasin and Delano Furtado, who will serve for a term of four years. The firm now has a standalone banking and finance practice led by partner Ameya Khandge.

The firm said the rationale for the new governance structure was to support an inter-generational transition. Notable firms in India are mainly family-run or headed by a celebrity managing partner.

“The structure can answer the aspirational needs of the leadership,” Parikh told India Business Law Journal. “And for those who wish to play the lead role, it shows that there will be an opportunity. That’s an essential aspect that lots of our young partners find very valuable.”

“There are no other models that can scale or reach the level of size and sophistication that a democratically managed firm can,” said Gorthi. “We consider ourselves unique in the sense that Parikh and I are not proprietors. We are more attuned and aligned with how international firms are organized and how they think and act. We started to take active steps towards devising the new structure in August or September of 2019.”

Parikh said he saw that deal values had declined but practices such as tech, employment, white collar investigations and litigation had picked up, because, “in times of distress, you will see more disputes as you see more defaults”. He added deal values could be expected to pick up once life, as well as business, limped back to normalcy.