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JSA merges with 4-year-old culture-fit Vichar to open in Chennai

Sivanandh: Cultivating culture
Sivanandh: Cultivating culture

J Sagar Associates (JSA) has merged with Chennai law firm Vichar Partners, which was set up by alumni from Universal Legal, Dua Associates and Paras Kuhad Associates in 2010.

Vichar consists of 12 fee-earners, of whom co-founders Vinod Kumar and Aarthi Sivanandh will be equity-partners elect from 1 April, while co-founder Chitra Narayan is joining as a retained partner.

“It hasn’t been an overnight decision – we’ve been working with them [sometimes on opposite sides], watching how they’ve grown, and they’ve been watching how we’ve grown,” Sivanandh told Legally India. “Chennai is a market that increasingly can not be ignored but we hadn’t seen too many national law firms coming in with confidence in the market here. But we have a relationship and some amount of scale, and over the last 3 years have become fairly significant in the local market.”

Competition in Chennai came mostly from smaller practices and sole practitioners, but JSA’s national footprint would be transformative, she added.

JSA senior partner Berjis Desai in a statement: “We have had a growing demand from both domestic and international clients to have a practice at Chennai. This merger will enable JSA to hit the road running, as Vichar Partners already has a significant presence in Chennai.”

JSA was culturally a good fit for Vichar, noted Sivanandh, which was important locally because “Chennai is also very high on culture” and the “market is very sensitive to relationships and culture”.

“Culturally we have evolved over time and over JSA’s long history it’s really evolved, and we could identify with that culture very well. That’s really what mattered at the end of the day and culture can’t be something that can just be microwaved.” The culture of a firm was different from “values”, which all firms had according to Sivanandh. Culture was immediately apparent in the “energy levels” and the way a firm’s lawyers talk to each other and to clients, their “commitment to institutionalising  the practice and to inter generational equity”.

This will be JSA’s fifth city location, alongside its offices in New Delhi, Gurgaon, Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad. The firm’s founder Jyoti Sagar retired a year ago after setting up the firm in 1991, with the firm now having 25 equity partners, including equity partners elect who can not technically join the partnership due to the Companies Act upper limit of 20 partners to a partnership.

Vichar was set up in late 2010 by Universal Legal partner Sivanandh, Dua Chennai partner Narayan, and Paras Kuhad Chennai head and designated partner Kumar. The firm has since acted on a cross-section of local deals corporate deals, as reported by Legally India.

Amarchand Mangaldas was the last national firm to open in Chennai in 2012.

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