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TOI doesn't like law firms: top 10 lawyers list '09

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Either the Times of India thinks that only advocates are lawyers or that law firm lawyers are just not so very top.

While I certainly would not dare disagree with the calibre and legal genius of each of these individuals, could not at least one law firmite have made it to the list?

Here's TOI's full list of top 10 lawyers, along with our nutshell summary of the paper's often brilliant commentary on each:
  1. Fali Nariman
    The "wise man of the Bar" with a stature that "allows him to be blunt in court".
  2. Soli J Sorabjee
    Former glorious AG, fierce free speech and HR advocate, "mad 'bawa' (Parsi) jokes", successful daughter.
  3. Harish Salve
    The "legal robot" and all-round legal talent.
  4. K. Parasaran
    "Articulate" and "ethically driven" "man for all seasons".
  5. Ram Jethmalani
    Passionate about crimes with "rapier-sharp wit", proving crime does pay.
  6. Abhishek Manu Singhvi
    "Buddha of the Bar", youngest additional solicitor general ever and happy enabler of all tricolor-wavers.
  7. Mukul Rohatgi
    Voluble "king" of Delhi HC and Anil's gas dispute trusted counsel.
  8. K.K. Venugopal
    "Constitutional crorepati", Emergency counterweight and collector - but where's the grey hair?
  9. Rohinton F Nariman
    Cheerful corporate stalwart, fast riser to senior counsel, Fali's son.
  10. Ashok Desai
    Reclusive former AG, softly-spoken but packing a serious punch and control.
Ok, so Zia Mody did make it the the list as a footnote but really, is it not time those doing great work in law firms are properly recognised in the public domain?

Possible explanations:

  • court-room work is simply more glamorous than the desk-bound transactional variety,
  • the ones on the list really are a league apart that law firmites have not yet been able to match, or
  • the TOI did not read the Lawyers Collective judgment that "legal practice" includes desk-work.
What's your view?

For Times of India's full list click here - it's a very entertaining read that brings out many a wonderful personality!

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  • Guest
    Anonymous Monday, 11 Jan 10

    Drew Peacock

    Kian. With all due respect to all the learned partners and associates workingin law firms. Do you really think that any of them are better than 9 out of the 10 advocates mentioned here? If you do then would love to see your list.

  • kianganz
    kianganz Monday, 11 Jan 10


    Drew P, welcome back!

    Depends how you measure "better" I guess.

    Top advocates are certainly more visible.

    But there must be a handful of transactional lawyers who are as good at their job, surely, even if they are less flamboyant and exciting to watch than top counsel?

  • Guest
    Anonymous Monday, 11 Jan 10

    Court work is always the ultimate practice. Everything that the desk lawyers practice and advise their multimillion dollar companies in the comfort of airconditioned offices must stand in court and must be law in the Judge's eyes. Not to disparage those working in firms (I am a corporate lawyers myself), but litigation is always going to be the ultimate form of practice, come what may.

  • Guest
    Anonymous Tuesday, 12 Jan 10


    I echo 4. There is simply no question that India's litigating lawyers are in a league of their own. I seriously doubt if even a single law firm partner could make it to a list of India's top hundred lawyers, leave alone a top ten list. And incidentally, I am a corporate lawyer working in a big Indian law firm. Lawfirmites have to be delusional to think that they could ever match India's top litigators.

  • Guest
    Anonymous Tuesday, 12 Jan 10


    And GS has not been added cos this list does not include the Attorney General, Solicitor General, or any of the ASGs

  • Guest
    Anonymous Tuesday, 12 Jan 10


    ToI ought to have just added another caveat - that this is India's top 10 SC counsel and not lawyers in general.

  • Guest
    Anonymous Tuesday, 12 Jan 10

    From 4 again.

    To my learned friend No. 7, I did not say that transactional / corporate lawyers in law firms do not apply their minds or are devoid of serious intelligence or skill. Our work in law firms is undoubtedly different in many ways from litigation and hence cannot be compared as you have rightly said.

    But eventually, whatever we say or advise our clients in our offices must stand in court (where a litigator becomes indispensable). And to that there really is no retort of any sort which a corporate lawyer (like I said I am one myself) can ever respond with. As corporate lawyers, while we do exercise superb brilliance and intelligence in our own way (which mind you many litigators would never be able to) we cannot even begin to play one-upmanship with those who are directly responsible for interpreting and scrutinising the law before judges in the highest courts of this country and who are thus directly responsible for shaping Indian jurisprudence.

  • kianganz
    kianganz Tuesday, 12 Jan 10


    By the way, in the same supplement, TOI also picks its five fave deals with lawyers on them: Delhi Shroffs, Zia, TTA's Feroz Dubash, Luthra and Trilegal's Anand Prasad" rel="nofollow">

  • Guest
    Anonymous Tuesday, 12 Jan 10


    The irony in this entire debate is that for the first time that I have seen, litigators and court room work is being referred to as glamorous. As a young lawyer working in a Bombay law firm, I find that most of the time a litigating lawyer is looked down upon. Recent law school graduates all seem to jump when one says corporate law as if it is the be all and end all with litigation being the poor cousin. A shame really.

  • Guest
    Anonymous Tuesday, 12 Jan 10


    Maybe there should be a separate run for the top 10 corporate lawyers. That should give an idea of the decent lawyers in that field without requiring a needless debate on whether litigating lawyers are better than corporate lawyers (which is another way of saying that litigation is "better" than corporate law). By the way, which field within corporate law is the best?

  • Guest
    Anonymous Tuesday, 12 Jan 10

    Just Curious

    You what Kianganz! your disapproval or disagreement or irritation , whatever it may be, is very apparent in the way you covered this story. One can sense that you wrote the story with a feeling of disapproval but you had to since it was a notable story! Ever since I started visiting this site, I always felt that this site seems only for LAW FIRMS and not for ADVOCATES. Although, I sincerely like the site that I visit it daily. But at the same time, its a LAW FIRM portal of sorts.

    My point is, when this site (e-media) chose to side with LAW FIRMS (which is not wrong), whats wrong if TOI (print media) sides with ADVOCATES (which is not wrong either). If you promote law firms, its fair reporting, when TOI gives its top 10 list, you cover it as though it has committed a sacrilege! Come On! Thats not fair. This site is doing its business, let TOI do its own business.

    And while I believe that all of us need excellent doctors who help us in preventing sickness (law firm preventing legal issues), when things do go out of hands and you need to get operated upon, you have to have a surgeon who operates and saves your life (Advocate in the Court). BOTH ARE IMPORTANT. It all depends on, what type of treatment you need, medicine or surgery!

  • kianganz
    kianganz Tuesday, 12 Jan 10

    Thanks Just Curious, fair comment.

    I just thought it was interesting/amusing that a general interest paper like Times of India used the wider term 'lawyers' and then listed only advocates.

    Very good list though, really enjoyed reading it, as well as reading people's views.

  • Guest
    Anonymous Tuesday, 12 Jan 10

    Drew Peacock

    Hey Kian,

    Happy New Year to you and good to see you in the thick of things. One can't help but look at the abundant display of sarcasm displayed by you in covering this. Using adjectives like 'flamboyant' to describe Court lawyers would be as inaccurate as a description if there ever was. In criticising these men on their earnings (in which case it must be said that you are incorrect in employing this parameter to judge them), you have veered off course. Is the degree of fortune a lawyer amasses inversely proportional to their lawyerly skills? Any description of the profession as flamboyant is best served if it is restricted to the men on the list and even then, it is testament to how good they are. Why is it a bad thing to earn astronomical sums of money? These guys didn't start off by making crores now did they? Rather, they had to make do with miniscule sums of money on which one couldn't and cannot to this day survive on! That's one big reason for law students choosing transactional law over practising in the Courts! And why are they paid such astronomical sums? The same reasons law firms charge astronomical sums for preparing a legal document. Rather, the transactional lawyers like those mentioned on the TOI list of transactional lawyers are more flamboyant and I am sure that colleagues from other law firms would second that in a heartbeat. And comparing a Bharti-MTN deal or a Tata-Corus deal to landmark judgments such as Keshavananda Bharti or Minerva Mills is a great disservice to the ideals on which those cases were contested. In fact, had they gone either way, one can very strongly argue that there wouldn't be any transactional law to begin with.

  • Guest
    Anonymous Tuesday, 12 Jan 10

    Just Curious

    Good point made at post #18.

  • kianganz
    kianganz Tuesday, 12 Jan 10


    @19 Drew P,

    In all honesty, not an ounce or sarcasm was intended, although I now realise 'flamboyant' may have been a bit too hyperbolic.

    In any case, 'flamboyant' was no intended reference whatsoever to remuneration but to their personalities and senses of humour, which I think the TOI write-up managed to bring out well.

    Advocates are by their very nature engaging public speakers and the few I have had the pleasure to hear myself have been captivating and entertaining.

  • Guest
    Anonymous Wednesday, 13 Jan 10

    Ashish Ahuja from Wadia Ghandy & CO. is one of the best! Many foreign authors and books have already acknowledged him. I think I agree with the author of this article that the TOI editor has absolutely no knowledge of the legal scene in India.

  • Guest
    Anonymous Wednesday, 13 Jan 10

    Drew Peacock

    One more thing Kian. In the link provided to TOI's article on transactional lawyers, every lawyer is accompanied with their snapshot. Anand's picture has two people in it. Please confirm whether the other person is a dog or an associate. I've heard of associates slogging like dogs in Trilegal, but this is ridiculous.

  • Guest
    Anonymous Sunday, 17 Jan 10

    if only prime time news discussions are to go by then few names in the list deserve their berth!

  • Guest
    Anonymous Sunday, 17 Jan 10

    Is there any one insider who can throw light on the huge fees being charged by these Advocates,the reasons for such fees ? What rocket science is involved that the justice became so costly??
    I request these Top Ten also to come forward and justify their charges.

  • Guest
    Anonymous Thursday, 21 Jan 10

    p g

    There are many lawyers in India who need recognition too....not only a political spokesperson or a person charging hefty fees or delivering lectures in various colleges. There are many more who could have been added in this list like T.R. Andhiyarijuna.

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