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No mover advantage / Issue 60

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Legally India newsletter
For now they are only skirmishes but these are also early hints of future salary wars brewing.

Amarchand, Khaitan & Co, Luthra and Trilegal have all hiked their starter pay above the Rs 10 lakh mark (roughly £13,700 or $21,700).

Some would blame the foreign firms although the direct cause is more likely to be internal, following AZB's pay-hike in June and this year's earlier-than-ever start of campus recruitment.

The winners will be the students as the balance of power will continue shifting towards the top law school graduates who can these days easily command more than just one top-paying job offer.

For tens of thousands of graduating law students, of course, things will likely stay the same.

The bar exam hopes to indirectly address that problem. This week the Supreme Court decided it wasn't the right forum to hear the challenges, suggesting the cases should be transferred into the Delhi High Court instead.

The Chennai High Court, however, now seems very much the right place to hear the case against 31 foreign law firms. The government's ambitions of moving the case to the apex court turned out to have probably been a red herring. Nevertheless, Dua Associates, Kachwaha & Partners and a who's who of Chennai senior counsel turned up for nine US firms, Slaughter and May, an LPO and other parties at the first proper hearing in the case that seeks to stop them from visiting India. In two weeks all other international firms will have to present their defences too.

Small fry of course: the most serious problem in India's legal profession is the "pseudo-lawyer", argues Elizabeth Seshadri convincingly.

And killing the pseudo-lawyer will not be easy.

Coincidentally, it seems to be just as difficult to convert a partnership into an LLP, especially for lawyers. So far, no big firm has done so although more than 10 have ambitiously registered their LLP names.

Trilegal has gone so far as to seek clarification from the bar council about whether it is even allowed to become an LLP, since most lawyers can't even agree on the legality. Trilegal has already been waiting months for a response and might very well wait longer.

And since this one is really all about the first-mover disadvantage, none of the large firms seem keen to seize it.

When not dealing with LLP queries the local bar councils seem a bit more active. In Maharashtra, the youngest member has an ambitious agenda to kick the bar council into the 21st century, at least as far as technology goes.

Politics and disputes continue in the Delhi bar council, where one almost-member brought a writ petition challenging hereditary succession after the previous chairman passed away last month. On an unrelated front Luthra partner Vijay Sondhi has been waging a letter-writing campaign to urge the bar council out of the "mess" it is in.

In deals country, the big news this week was that Luthra has tied with Amarchand at the top of this financial year's first quarter IPO league table - unprecedented?

Meanwhile, Platinum Partners has stepped up in Mumbai with a senior lawyer hire from White & Case. And Kochhar & Co has held a party with two new Saudi and UAE alliance firms. In light of international firms' office closing sprees in the region, one would love to ask how much business can currently be coming out the Middle East. Unfortunately neither Kochhar & Co nor the alliance firms were available for comment when contacted.

Finally, we have also started a new section where Legally India reviews India's hottest TV show for lawyers: CNBC TV18's The Firm. Check in every week to read and watch what the top corporate lawyers think. This week Zia Mody, Cyril Shroff and others chatted about the new takeover code rules.

Comment of the week

"Each of us has a choice of displaying professionalism, empathy, integrity, civic sense and taking responsibility for being an ambassador of the profession EVERY DAY. If each of us makes a choice in favor of such a display, irrespective of financial loss or other temporary set backs, I do believe that the perceived present dominance of the pseudo-lawyer will surely but steadily come to an end," says "Tongue Firmly in Cheek" (presumably in all seriousness).

To get future newsletters straight to your inbox every Friday for free, please enter your name and email below.

Subscribe to Legally India's newsletter!

Context, analysis & more straight to your email inbox every week, unsubscribe any time.

It's a must-read for every lawyer in or near India.

For now they are only skirmishes but these are also early hints of future salary wars brewing.

Amarchand, Khaitan & Co, Luthra and Trilegal have all hiked their starter pay above the Rs 10 lakh mark (roughly £13,700 or $21,700).

Some would blame the foreign firms although the direct cause is more likely to be internal, following AZB's pay-hike in June and this year's earlier-than-ever start of campus recruitment.

The winners will be the students as the balance of power will continue shifting towards the top law school graduates who can these days easily command more than just one top-paying job offer.

For tens of thousands of graduating law students, of course, things will likely stay the same.

The bar exam hopes to indirectly address that problem. This week the Supreme Court decided it wasn't the right forum to hear the challenges, suggesting the cases should be transferred into the Delhi High Court instead.

The Chennai High Court, however, now seems very much the right place to hear the case against 31 foreign law firms. The government's ambitions of moving the case to the apex court turned out to have probably been a red herring. Nevertheless, Dua Associates, Kachwaha & Partners and a who's who of Chennai senior counsel turned up for nine US firms, Slaughter and May, an LPO and other parties at the first proper hearing in the case that seeks to stop them from visiting India. In two weeks all other international firms will have to present their defences too.

Small fry of course: the most serious problem in India's legal profession is the "pseudo-lawyer", argues Elizabeth Seshadri convincingly.

And killing the pseudo-lawyer will not be easy.

Coincidentally, it seems to be just as difficult to convert a partnership into an LLP, especially for lawyers. So far, no big firm has done so although more than 10 have ambitiously registered their LLP names.

Trilegal has gone so far as to seek clarification from the bar council about whether it is even allowed to become an LLP, since most lawyers can't even agree on the legality. Trilegal has already been waiting months for a response and might very well wait longer.

And since this one is really all about the first-mover disadvantage, none of the large firms seem keen to seize it.

When not dealing with LLP queries the local bar councils seem a bit more active. In Maharashtra, the youngest member has an ambitious agenda to kick the bar council into the 21st century, at least as far as technology goes.

Politics and disputes continue in the Delhi bar council, where one almost-member brought a writ petition challenging hereditary succession after the previous chairman passed away last month. On an unrelated front Luthra partner Vijay Sondhi has been waging a letter-writing campaign to urge the bar council out of the "mess" it is in.

In deals country, the big news this week was that Luthra has tied with Amarchand at the top of this financial year's first quarter IPO league table - unprecedented?

Meanwhile, Platinum Partners has stepped up in Mumbai with a senior lawyer hire from White & Case. And Kochhar & Co has held a party with two new Saudi and UAE
alliance firms. In light of international firms' office closing sprees in the region, one would love to ask how much business can currently be coming out the Middle East. Unfortunately neither Kochhar & Co nor the alliance firms were available for comment when contacted.

Finally, we have also started a new section where Legally India reviews India's hottest TV show for lawyers: CNBC TV18's The Firm. Check in every week to read and watch what the top corporate lawyers think. This week Zia Mody, Cyril Shroff and others chatted about the new takeover code rules.

Comment of the week

"Each of us has a choice of displaying professionalism, empathy, integrity, civic sense and taking responsibility for being an ambassador of the profession EVERY DAY. If each of us makes a choice in favor of such a display, irrespective of financial loss or other temporary set backs, I do believe that the perceived present dominance of the pseudo-lawyer will surely but steadily come to an end," says "Tongue Firmly in Cheek" (presumably in all seriousness).
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