Induslaw has created a new career step of principal associate as a one-to-two-year training ground before partnership and has promoted one if its senior associates into the new role.
Around nine-year qualified Hyderabad senior associate Satya Sree Akella will become a principal associate from 1 April 2010, with a view to becoming a partner within a year.
Bangalore co-founding partner Suneeth Katarki (pictured) explained the new principal associate rung: "Our thought is very simple: we are ready to make the person partner today but there we have a kind of breeding space."
He added that the firm had no discretion with respect to whether or not a principal associate would be elevated once that principal associate comes forward.
Katarki said: "We felt there is certainly still a gap in the way law firms are structured between senior associates and partner. We found that from an HR perspective it is nicer and easier for senior associates to deal with principal associates. Senior associates can find it difficult to deal with someone who is a senior associate one moment and then a partner."
He explained that a principal associate would also start to look at the operational side of running a law firm, such as financials and administration, as they would gradually be "groomed" to take on partnership duties.
Induslaw Delhi co-founding partner Gaurav Dani noted that during the transitional period principal associates would also be invited for partners' meetings where necessary.
Akella is heading up the firm's Hyderabad office of five lawyers and specialises in private equity and corporate work. She said: "There are different philosophies: designation follows role or role follows designation. I believe that designation follows role."
Akella added that she was not quite ready for the partner label yet but hoped to get there soon. "If I am partner-in-making I would look forward to client acquisitions and more of client management."
Dani said that the firm was looking to expand its South India significantly with lateral hires.
Induslaw, which rebranded at the beginning of this year from Indus G&D Law, has 53 lawyers, which includes seven co-founding equity partners and around seven senior associates. It was formed by the merger between G&D Law and Indus Law in 2007.
While Induslaw had made one internal partnership promotion in the past that person had left the firm recently, explained Dani.
A principal associate would get promoted to become a salaried partner for a period before becoming an equity partner.
Both Dani and Katarki denied that principal associate position was an alternative to partnership or a parking space to avoid making up new partners.
"We don't believe in having somebody as a counsel who is neither here nor there," said Dani.