Mohit Saraf: Not afraid of foreign law firms (but then why the reluctance?)Mohit Saraf: Not afraid of foreign law firms (but then why the reluctance?)

Luthra & Luthra senior partner Mohit Saraf, who was one of the Indian law firm promoters requesting the commerce ministry in liberalisation negotiations to prevent foreign firms from hiring Indian lawyers, said in an interview with Asia Legal Business that if foreign firms open in India, they would only be with a “very small office”.

When asked by ALB about his predictions for 2018, he said: “The Indian legal market will be more mature, with improvements in deal flow, and pricing pressures easing. By the end of 2018, we should be ready for the next level of liberalisation with the markets opening up by then.”

When asked specifically about liberalisation, he implied that foreign firms would not directly compete with firms such as Luthra and that only few would come:

We extensively work with U.S. and UK law firms, and most of these firms have conveyed to me that they will not open an office in India in a hurry. Even if they do open, it will be a very small office to support their International clients, and hence we will continue to work with them closely, and receive on-going referral work.

As we had exclusively reported in September, Saraf, alongside Silf chairman Lalit Bhasin and Jyoti Sagar, the retired founder of J Sagar Associates (JSA), had pressed the commerce ministry - which has led the way in opening the Indian legal market to foreign firms - to only allow foreign law firms' entry if they were also stopped from hiring Indian lawyers.

Saraf declined to comment when contacted at the time.

That said, Saraf is right that appetites of foreign law firms in India may be limited, as our research has shown.

Most of our sample of foreign firms surveyed earlier this year said they would only open small transactional offices primarily in Mumbai (while 94% of foreign firms surveyed by us said they would not want to open in special economic zones (SEZs), which has been the government's currently preferred model).

However small foreign firms' offices are likely to be, however, Saraf and his Silf colleagues are perhaps right to worry that even if small, in staffing those offices foreign firms might very well end up taking several nibbles out of mid- or senior partnerships and senior associate ranks at some firms.

Also interviewed in the ALB article were Phoenix Legal co-founding partner Saket Shukla and Vertices Partners founder Vinayak Burman, who had the following opinions about liberalisation:

SHUKLA: What the actual impact would be on the Indian legal industry is somewhat unclear at the moment. Given that we already work at par with international standards and our present clientele includes major MNCs and Fortune 500 companies, we do not see the entry of foreign law firms requiring us to modify or make improvements to our internal structure, our style or quality of work.

That being said, we ensure that all our lawyers are updated and aware of all international developments on both legal and qualitative fronts. Although the entry of foreign law firms may spread out business very thinly, the rate at which the Indian economy is growing should generate sufficient work for the entire legal fraternity.

BURMAN: The entry of foreign lawyers in India is a welcome move by the Indian government as it would allow the Indian legal services market to keep up with the diversified global legal industry and would also allow cross border exchange of knowledge, expertise, skill and talent. However, the same, if not done in a seamless manner, may lead to loss of opportunities for local law firms and Indian attorneys.

The entry of foreign firms and foreign lawyers in India will result in the existing competition multiplying manifold. However, many domestic firms will thrive on their competitive prices and quality of service. From our perspective, this has a dual positive construct. Firstly, the market is large enough to address various price points from a service provider’s perspective and the price range for the international firms will find takers only at the top of the pyramid. Secondly, there will be still various avenues of synergies where international firms would seek expertise of boutique firms, both from a time value perspective as well as domain and market expertise perspective.

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1
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Like +5 Object -11 Jha-2 08 Nov 17, 18:36  controversial
Even if they allow, no foreign firm will recruit any Indian lawyer as they chew paan and are useless in any case! In fact, no Indian lawyer should join them in national interest and should keep servicing swadeshi firms!
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1.1
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Like +0 Object -0 Firangi Babu 08 Nov 17, 18:56
They have not tasted our paan yet. Let them have it and you will see them leave their firm and try to join our desi firms instead! Having paan and doing nothing else.
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2
Like +48 Object -4 Luthra lawyer 08 Nov 17, 19:02  interesting  top rated
Foreign law firms should only be allowed under the following circumstances:

1) Cap of 5 lawyers per city
2) Office cannot have an AC
3) Salary cap of Rs 5,000 a month of associates, Rs 10,00 a month for partners
4) NLU graduates cannot be hired, LLM graduates from law schools abroad cannot be hired
5) Cannot practice in the following areas: corp and finance, tax, real estate, infra, competition, IP
6) Employees must sing Vande Mataram in the office everyday

Provided these conditions are fulfilled, we will welcome foreign law firms as we are a world class law firm not afraid of competition.
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2.1
Like +16 Object -2 Jha-2 09 Nov 17, 10:56  interesting  top rated
Few more conditions from my side:
7) They will not be allowed to use any kind of computers;
8) They will not be allowed to set up any office in or near NCR, Greater Mumbai Area and Bangaluru;
9) They must set up at least 25 offices in rural areas of Bihar, UP, Jharkhand and Odisha as well as North East States to serve farmers below poverty line free of charge
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Like +4 Object -1 Guest 08 Nov 17, 19:03
Kian request you to highlight more pro-liberliasation voices, especially from eminent jurists.
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4
Like +45 Object -1 Guest 08 Nov 17, 20:04  interesting  top rated
At least foreign law firms would give increments unlike Luthra.
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5
Like +7 Object -0 yes 08 Nov 17, 21:34  interesting
it will be good for all. Small office means there will be mad competition - most (if not all) Indian associates and partners will want to get hired into these offices. the salary will be much much higher than Indian standards and of course work will be slow and limited in early stages - so great deal i reckon?
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6
Like +10 Object -1 Guest 08 Nov 17, 22:27  interesting
Why is Luthra not giving increments any idea? It is everywhere in the news.
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7
Like +8 Object -1 Sarfat Ali 09 Nov 17, 00:42  interesting
They will not give anyone any increments! That's the plan. The senior leadership keeps getting richer, bidding for over-priced interns, while other firms with lower scores pick up mandate despite lower technical scores. RL and MS have just lost the plot. Their disagreements are open for anyone to see. RL must return and get involved in the firm and institutionalise the firm if it has to stay relevant. MS can't do it and all except RL seem know it. Or is RL pretending not to know, because it serves his interest??
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8
Like +35 Object -2 GAURAV BHANDARI 09 Nov 17, 00:47  interesting  top rated
I am not a lawyer, but I work in the law firm industry and I have seen this man- Mohit in action at a seminar that my firm was also attending. I have never seen someone who [...], is an average presenter, but yet is so arrogant and feels that the world of law was blessed because he became a lawyer. Overall a very average guy, who seems to have acquired more power than he deserves or can handle.
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8.1
Like +14 Object -0 Atithi 09 Nov 17, 14:37  interesting  top rated
Arrogance and belligerence without any basis or standing is just a demonstration of ineptness.
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Like +14 Object -1 Who cares about Saraf? 09 Nov 17, 09:26  interesting  top rated
Mohit Saraf, Jyoti Sagar and Lalit Bhasin are only three individuals opposed to the entry of foreign law firms. Who cares what theses individuals think? I don't understand why their views are given so much importance where rest of the legal fraternity are in favour of foreign law firms entering the Indian market. Also, who cares what the law firms have 'conveyed' to Saraf. He is clearly afraid of the competition that foreign law firms will bring and Luthra will be called out for their practices in (not) paying their lawyers, which is already well known.
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10
Like +9 Object -1 Realist 09 Nov 17, 11:57  interesting
Time to be humble rather be arrogant. Your ruse is not worth its words. Your words not worth a penny. Treat your people right and then you will have no reason to worry about firms coming in.
Accept the inevitable and prepare for it rather than trying your last ditch attempt to get as much money into your coffers before the light goes out!
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11
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Like +2 Object -0 Jha-2 09 Nov 17, 12:56
If this person is right then no reason remains to waste his time on lobbying against opening of the market! Let's open all gates!
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12
Like +10 Object -1 litigation ka vakil 09 Nov 17, 13:07  interesting
Dekho sir (CSS) increment de raho ho ya nahi? Ab toh office aane ka bhi mann nahi karta. Sabne toh BMW 7, Audi, second hand LC le le hai mujhe bhi toh wagao R lene do. Kaha le jaoege itna paisa !

sab moh maya hai!
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12.1
Like +16 Object -0 Clerk 09 Nov 17, 14:36  interesting  top rated
No increment. No respect. No point...
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12.2
Like +17 Object -2 VS 09 Nov 17, 16:23  interesting  top rated
Dekho election mai paisa lagta hai... sirf fb mai mera page share karne se nahi hoga... increment and bonus ka balidan dena hoga... tabhi to achi din ayenge
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13
Like +8 Object -1 Guest 09 Nov 17, 13:37  interesting
some more conditions for the entry of foreign law firms:

1. The first 10 firms entering the Indian market shall join SILF so that they can prevent all further aspirants from entering.

2. 75% of the Indian office equity must be reserved for the children of the senior partners so that a level playing field is created with Indian law firms and an unfair advantage is not gained in attracting legal talent.

3. The annual increments and bonus paid out by the Indian office of the foreign law firm cannot exceed the average pay out by the top 10 Indian law firms under the same heads for that year.
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13.1
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Like +2 Object -1 Bha 09 Nov 17, 19:53
One suggested correction - no increments and bonus can be given in first 10 years of their operation!
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Like +2 Object -0 Hoodibaba 09 Nov 17, 23:44
Are none of you even remotely concerned that some SILF-like creature might be lurking around taking these suggestions down with a view to propagating them?
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Like +2 Object -0 Bentley and Cigars 10 Nov 17, 01:11
Clearly evident reason why LL gets so many negative comments. RKL please bring the hand down my friend.You edifice faces a crash. Remember what happened last time. Saddened.
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Like +3 Object -1 Alias 10 Nov 17, 14:23
Surprising how much importance is being to Luthra's comments. Nobody really cares abt them outside delhi.
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Like +1 Object -3 Chaat khaoge? 10 Nov 17, 18:10
Seems like a comment from some Tier 3 firm attorney or may be an ex-Luthra who was thrown out for non-performance. koi nahi bete, chaat khaane aa jaana month end party mein ;)
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15.1.1
Like +5 Object -1 Gulabjamun 10 Nov 17, 23:32
Chaat hi milegi. Paisa nahin. Chaat Khao chholley Khao aur ghar jao. As it is there is no work for you.
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Like +2 Object -1 Dilemma 11 Nov 17, 09:54
The problem with Luthra is the model itself. The manager (...) is an average guy but can't handle criticism from anyone. Doesnt pay increments or bonus in time, the big owner doesn't put him back in line. The manager's cronies and sycophants who are equally shallow and not detail-oriented thrive. The people who work for RKL are systematically side-lined and forced to leave. This is the manager M' s way of further strengthening himself. RKL is surely smart enough to see through this, but why doesn't he stem the rot??? Please someone shed light.
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Like +0 Object -1 Dampner 11 Nov 17, 17:21
Because RKL is busy trying to get work which others take for granted. He needs to step back and reign in the ones who go against the better interest of the firm. It is Luthra & Luthra- not any one else name.
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Like +1 Object -2 LL1 12 Nov 17, 19:17
Why can't RKL just be more involved in things M&S has been mismanaging for so long! Promotions, increments everything is delayed. All are provided to those who make M&S look good or are sycophants. People till this day 25 years after the firm has been around have greater recall for RKL than for his (...)

RKL should understand that it can cut both ways. (...) He has more of a reputation to lose. The managers loss will be only $$$ but Mr. Luthra stands to lose far more than $$$. Rajiv Luthra its time to step up and cease control.
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Like +2 Object -0 Ek aur kismat ka mara 16 Nov 17, 09:02
Ho gaya bhaio increment!
We are not as privileged as kids of judge who come to Office at around 11 and leave by 6 and only do election work. We bloody generate money for our office.
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