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Khaitan & Co ends all-equity partnership, bulks Delhi corp with Skaddens lateral

EXCLUSIVE: Khaitan & Co has hired Symbiosis graduate Rajat Mukherjee as an “associate partner”, which is the first time a non-equity salaried partner has joined the firm under the revamped partnership structure.

Mukherjee joins the Delhi office’s corporate team from Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom in New York where he was an associate.

With his hire Khaitan & Co has made the unprecedented step of inducting a salaried or “associate partner” to the firm. Previously the firm had operated a pure equity partnership where every partner’s performance was assessed annually by a committee that determine each partner’s equity share, explained Mumbai co-founding partner Rabindra Jhunjhunwala.

He  told Legally India that the change to a mixed salaried and equity model was a “systematic” one, with final details still being finalised. “It is sort of a transition period which we are going to have before we consider people for full equity.”

He added that the system would not stop senior lateral hires from joining the firm’s equity directly, although it was still being discussed on how to structure the system for internal promotions.

Mukherjee (pictured), who joined the firm on 1 July 2010, commented: “The idea [behind salaried partnership] was that the expectations should be understood from both sides when you join – the business development and getting clients is not something that happens immediately when you make partner.”

“This gives people who are just being elevated gives me some breathing room to not just execute but do client development and then you move to full equity,” he added.

Khaitan & Co partner Bharat Anand, who joined the Delhi office in February 2009, said that Mukherjee’s joining would add to the strength of the firm’s corporate practice in Delhi, which consisted of three partners at the moment. “I think it's clearly to emulate what we've done in Bombay and build the firm as a full service firm in both centres.”

“Litigation has been the traditional strength of the firm along with tax but now I think essentially the firm is migrating towards corporate being at the forefront of the firm,” he explained. “We are building and ramping up on the M&A side and the corporate field.”

Khaitan & Co’s Delhi office now consists of 68 lawyers and 12 partners, of whom three now focus on corporate, four on litigation, two each in projects and tax and one each in real estate and competition law. The Mumbai office, which was founded in 2001, now consists of 120 lawyers, including 19 partners. Across all four offices the firm has more than 245 lawyers, including 41 equity partners and now one associate partner.

Mukherjee is a 2002 graduate of Symbiosis Law School in Pune after which he had worked for three-and-a-half years at DSK Legal in Mumbai, while it was briefly Andersen Legal’s Indian alliance partner. He completed an LLM from Columbia law school in New York in 2006 after which he joined Skaddens in New York, as well as Hong Kong for one year.

In 2009 Mukherjee went on secondment to Khaitan & Co’s Delhi office for three months and had decided to remain in India. He explained: “There's so much happening in India that you can't help but want to be part of it.

“The secondment was a good idea because for one my wife and I wanted to be in India because she was having a baby. And I've known [Mumbai co-founding partner] Haigreve [Khaitan] for a long time and had worked across Khaitan when I started my career.”

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