Back in the driver's seat

As Western legal markets reeled from the recession last year, Indian lawyers were sanguine. RSG’s research over the past two years reveals that India has possibly the most dynamic legal market in the world. 


India suffered a drop in M&A activity in 2009 but Indian lawyers we interviewed thought there was little cause for concern. Most reported that activity had picked up since as early as last July. Their confidence is supported by M&A figures released by the Economic Times of India which show that in the first 45 days of 2010, India Inc has announced deals worth $14 billion, already more than the $11.9 billion total for 2009. 


RSG’s research with Indian clients found that over the course of 2009, Indian lawyers’ fees fell at a much lower rate than those of UK and US firms. From firms established over a century ago to some less than 5 years old, many have ambitious plans for growth, citing figures of 300% in three years. 


In fact, Indian firms benefitted from the downturn as legal talent came back from the West.


In 2008, news reports abounded of high profile Indian recruits by UK or US firms. Rahul Guptan joined Clifford Chance from Amarchand in 2008, and Indian firms complained they had few graduates to choose from after UK firms like Allen & Overy and Herbert Smith had made their recruitment rounds at the top law schools. 


But in a notable shift, 2009 saw a number of high profile moves back to India including husband and wife Murali Neelakantan and Kalpana Udnakat who left Ashurst to join Khaitan & Co’s Mumbai office.


Both Khaitan & Co and Trilegal, the best friend of magic circle law firm Allen & Overy, have consolidated their success in Mumbai with a move to the new Indiabulls centre. The centre is a gigantic, modern construction of glass and steel in the city’s fastest growing business district.


Not to be left out, Talwar Thakore, the Indian partner to another magic circle firm, Linklaters, also announced moving plans in 2009 as it made up two new partners and absorbed further members of the returning Indian Diaspora.