Mid-level movement in legal sector rankings

Mid-level movement in legal sector rankings

New Delhi: The latest RSG top 40 ranking of Indian corporate law firms in 2010 shows the top 10 firms have barely moved positions.

Amarchand and Mangaldas retained pole position as India’s premier law firm, edging ahead of AZB and Partners, with whom it tied for first place last year, said a report by RSG Consulting.

Khaitan and Co. continued to show promise thanks to its expanding Mumbai office and tied with J Sagar Associates in third position. Khaitan was ranked fourth last year and J Sagar was third.

Most of the movement in the ranking table has been in the mid-level and lower ranks, the survey found.

Also See | Order of the year (PDF)

Wadia Ghandy and Co. has fallen from a joint rank of eighth last year to 15 this year. The firm’s numbers have not grown, both in terms of partners and associates. Dua Associates fell eight places, possibly due to the creation of Tatva Legal (25th this year) last January.

The firms that did well this year include Talwar Thakore and Associates, one of the smallest firms in the list, which broke into the top 20 despite not having increased the number of lawyers. Platnium Partners has also risen identically, but has added capacity.

Interestingly, established firms Fox Mandal and Mulla and Mulla have gained significantly. Bharucha and Partners has climbed from rank 23 to 15. S&R Associates broke into the upper ranks with a joint 10th place while Kocchar and Co. made a big leap from rank 28 to 13.

Industry watchers were divided on the growth of new firms. One analyst said more firms will be established despite harsher market conditions compared with a few years ago, while another said the market will soon enter a phase of consolidation into segments or speciality in practice areas.

“There is still a huge amount of opportunity in the Indian legal market," said Kian Ganz, editor of Legally India, an industry website. “The market seems entrepreneural enough and many young lawyers believe there’s a massive chance they’ll make it big. A lot of them have trained abroad and they have different exposures from the older generation of lawyers."

But Nikhil Chandra, chief executive of Rainmaker, a legal industry services provider and also a former lawyer, said the sector will start consolidating in a few years.

“It is effectively a follow-on from the changes that came about since liberalization," said Chandra, “which is why this avatar (of law firms) you see today will stay."

“The biggest change has been the transformation of the practice of law to the business of law," he added. “The concept of a family lawyer, like a family doctor, has mostly ceased to exist. There will be faceless legal service providers for the country."

RSG’s rankings use a variety of sources to evaluate firms, including analysis from clients.

“This year, we actively investigated a further 30 law firms outside the top 40 and many of those could soon easily be in the RSG ranking. They have multinationals and top Indian corporates as clients," said Reena SenGupta, a legal strategy consultant and founder of RSG Consulting.