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AZB overtakes AMSS-divided in RSG top 40 firm rankings • Luthra, ELP, Tatva drop • Trilegal, LKS, Link, Indus rise

Top 10 Indian law firms according to RSG (full top 40 ranking below)
Top 10 Indian law firms according to RSG (full top 40 ranking below)

In the latest bi-annual rankings compiled by consultancy RSG India, AZB & Partners has topped the table ahead of Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas (SAM) and Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas (CAM), which had topped the table in 2015 when still united in one firm as Amarchand Mangaldas before their break-up (see full table below).

Trilegal leapfrogged both J Sagar Associates (JSA) and Luthra & Luthra into fifth position.

There is only a whisker separating AZB from SAM, CAM and Khaitan & Co in the aggregate scores (34.4 vs 34.0 vs 33.6 vs 32.8 respectively), as compiled by RSG from a number of banded and weighted scores out of a maximum of 40:

1. CAPACITY (out of 10): number of partners, lawyers, offices, leverage ratios, and ability to handle large scale work.

2. PROFILE (out of 10): market profile, including the number of spontaneous mentions and recommendations the firm received in independent client interviews.

3. QUALITY OF MANDATE (out of 10): an analysis of the firm’s client base and recent work, including their major directory rankings.

4. CLIENT SATISFACTION (out of 10): the average satisfaction score from the firm’s own clients on 12 key indicators.

Despite “capacity”, which relates to size of a firm counting for one fourth of the score, some smaller firms, such as S&R Associates with only 70 lawyers ("S&R in particular is a superb practice with top-level mandates, some on a par with AZB”, according to RSG), managed to make it to eighth position just 0.6 points below Luthra & Luthra, which has 350 lawyers and dropped two positions to seventh place as the lowest ranked of the Big Seven firms

Talwar Thakore & Associates, a firm of only 36 lawyers, was ranked 14th this year, from 10th last year as the smallest ranked firm in the top 30.

RSG commented:

The split of Amarchand Mangaldas into two law firms, each respectively led by one brother, has led to a shift in India’s premier firms. AZB & Partners secured the top spot as India’s best law firm. Overall it came out on top when assessed against RSG’s four indicators of capacity, profile and reputation, quality of work and client satisfaction, doing particularly well on client satisfaction, quality of work and reputation. There is a sense among senior clients that at the current moment, there is more continuity within the firm and its commitment to quality is giving it a ‘Cravath-like’ reputation.

However, the market is potentially still fluid and clients did note though that as the market settles down, the pecking order will most likely reshuffle again.

Khaitan holds its spot in the top ranks but a significant mover up the ranking is Trilegal. It now holds fifth place ahead of JSA. Overall, it received the highest client satisfaction scores of the top firms but, in terms of reputation, the Indian corporate establishment still perceives it as challenger brand. Significantly, it was the one firm not to be affected by any partner losses during the period of musical chairs that followed the Amarchand split. It was a net beneficiary in terms of lateral partners.

Climbers

The firms with the greatest jump in rankings were Lakshmikumaran & Sridharan, with 342 lawyers and a score of 24.1 (versus only 163 lawyers and a score of 21.5 in 2015 - opened a London office and “benefitted hugely from the introduction of the GST”, according to RSG); and Link Legal India Law Services ("does not have a high profile in the Indian legal market, Link Legal is a potential dark horse that could do very well”, according to RSG), whose headcount rocketed from 154 lawyers from 94 two years ago, in-part helping with its climb from 30th to 17th place.

HSA Advocates grew from 69 lawyers in 2015 to 112 lawyers in 2017, accompanied by a rise in the rankings to 20th from 25th two years ago.

Nishith Desai Associates (23.9 score and 82 lawyers) climbed from 12th to 10th place, while Kochhar & Co improved from 14th to 11th position.

IndusLaw jumped 10 places to 23rd with 108 lawyers, nearly double its headcount of 62 two years ago, while ALMT Legal went up nine to 27th this year (despite headcounts at ALMT reducing slightly from 110 to 92).

The three national alliance partnerships of Fox Mandal managed to improve on their 2015 rankings from 28th to 24th position, with headcounts apparently having risen from 131 lawyers to 216, according to RSG figures.

Samvad Partners too increased its standing from 35th to 26th position, while nearly tripling its headcount from 29 to 101 between 2015 and now.

Newcomers

Highest new entrant to the RSG rankings was Veritas Legal started in 2014, which entered in 27th position with 33 lawyers.

Clyde & Co best friend Clasis Law too is now part of the top 40, having made it into 31st place, while ARA Law made it into 39th this year.

2016-start-up Vertices Partners made it to 37th place with a headcount of 18.

Drops

Economic Laws Practice (ELP) dropped in the rankings from eighth to 12th, Platinum Partners went from 16th to 13th, and Desai & Diwanji dropped from ninth to 18th place.

Tatva Legal almost dropped off the rankings from 21st in 2015 to 37th this year.

Dua Associates, from which Tatva was birthed in a mass exodus, was not included in the 2017 rankings at all (having held 26th position in 2015).

Cam vs Sam

RSG noted regarding the CAM and SAM rivalry after the split:

Both firms have been building significant practices in each other’s key cities, Mumbai and Delhi. To a large extent, they have been successful. As it stands, SAM has a better reputation amongst Indian law firms, whilst CAM has a better reputation amongst clients and foreign law firms.

In terms of the firm’s respective composition and ratings, SAM’s senior partners received near perfect feedback whilst CAM’s senior partners were rated slightly lower and more in line with the market average. When it comes to the strengths and weaknesses of the firms, each has its strong points. Clients feel that SAM scores higher than CAM in its service and expertise, but CAM outperforms SAM in its modern and commercial approach with a focus on risk-taking and new ideas.

It should be stressed that despite these differences, both brothers continue to be rated as leading practitioners in the Indian legal market. Their different strengths, though, are particularly exciting because it means that the future rankings could be subject to change. Both firms will need to keep their client satisfaction levels high if they want to re-take pole position in the next RSG India Report.

Methodology

The RSG methodology, in addition to the parameters outlined above, included:

• Client satisfaction reviews from 416 major purchasers of Indian legal services

• 50 telephone interviews with an independent control group of major legal purchasers

• Analysis of 256 Indian law firms

• Submissions from 61 Indian law firms

• Interviews with 40 Indian law firm managing partners

• On-the-ground research with Indian law firms and clients

• Submissions from foreign law firms with India practices

• Interviews with foreign law firm India practice heads

• Analysis of major published deals databases, league tables and other available rankings.

This news was first shared with Legally India subscribers via WhatsApp. If you’d like to hear about news before they break, please sign up at the bottom of this article.

RSG 2017 rankings

2017 Rank

2015 Rank

Firm

TOTAL SCORE

Total number of lawyers

1+

2

AZB & Partners

34.4

400

2-

1

Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co.

34.0

521

3-

1

Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas

33.6

630

4-

2

Khaitan & Co

32.8

550

5+

6

Trilegal

29.6

281

6-

4

J. Sagar Associates

29.4

382

7-

5

Luthra & Luthra Law Offices

26.5

350

8-

7

S&R Associates

24.9

70

9+

20

Lakshmikumaran & Sridharan

24.1

342

10+

12

Nishith Desai Associates

23.9

82

11+

14

Kochhar & Co

23.6

192

12-

8

Economic Laws Practice

23.5

183

13+

18

Anand and Anand

23.2

101

14-

10

Talwar Thakore & Associates

21.2

36

15=

15

Bharucha & Partners

20.8

80

16-

13

Platinum Partners

20.3

40

17+

30

Link Legal - India Law Services

20.1

154

18-

17

Phoenix Legal

19.8

75

18-

9

Desai & Diwanji

19.8

217

20+

25

HSA Advocates

19.3

112

21-

19

Vaish Associates Advocates

19.2

111

21-

16

DSK Legal

19.2

113

23+

33

IndusLaw

19.0

108

24+

28

Fox Mandal

17.7

216

25-

23

Mulla & Mulla & Craigie Blunt & Caroe

17.5

66

26+

35

Samvad Partners

17.3

101

27+

Veritas Legal

17.0

33

27+

36

ALMT Legal

17.0

92

29-

27

Majmudar & Partners

16.8

57

30-

29

Juris Corp

16.7

49

31+

Clasis Law

15.7

49

31-

22

Kanga & Co

15.7

43

33+

38

Krishnamurthy & Co (K Law)

15.5

85

34+

Bathiya Legal

15.3

34

35-

32

Rajani Associates

15.1

40

35+

32

Singhania & Partners

15.1

50

37+

Vertices Partners

14.4

18

37-

21

Tatva Legal

14.4

80

39+

ARA Law

14.0

18

40-

39

SB Partners

11.1

14

Source: RSG India

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