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Merger between Universal in South, IC Legal in Mumbai creates new 100+ national firm, hopes for ‘excellent synergies’

Universal founder Partha Mandal (left) and Bheru Choudhary: ‘Powerful combination’ with IC Legal
Universal founder Partha Mandal (left) and Bheru Choudhary: ‘Powerful combination’ with IC Legal

Bangalore-headquartered law firm Universal Legal and Mumbai firm IC Legal have merged into IC Universal Legal Advocates & Solicitors, to become a seven-office firm of more than 100 fee-earners, including 15 partners.

The merged firm has offices in six Indian cities - Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Ahmedabad and Chandigarh - as well as affiliate offices with Universal's US best friend / closely allied firm Chugh LLP in Los Angeles, Santa Clara, New Jersey, Atlanta and Washington.

Universal Legal, which was founded in 2004 and has a focus on energy, pharmaceuticals, healthcare, micro finance and IT/ITES work, has had a particularly strong presence in South India.

IC Legal, which was also started in 2004 with a focus on real estate, media and litigation, has had offices in Fort and Andheri. According to a joint statement from the merged firm, IC now has a “majority” of “top 20 Indian financial services groups” and “top 10 Indian mutual funds”, it also has a 20% market share of the investment funds and structuring and fund formation space, and “is credited as the top Indian law firm in terms of number of SEBI regulatory registration across the intermediary space”.

Pre-merger, IC consisted of around 40 lawyers, including 7 partners; Universal was around 55 lawyers strong, including 8 partners. In addition both firms also retain around 10 company secretaries/chartered accountants as non-lawyer fee earners.

Universal managing partner Partha Mandal commented in a press statement: “I am delighted that this opportunity has arisen as there are excellent synergies between the two firms, and integrating the practices has opened up a much bigger platform for existing and future clients, making it a powerful combination.”

IC Legal managing partner Bheru Choudhary noted that the merger provided “collectively a pan-India presence through the various offices”.

“This forward-looking tie-up is built on our shared vision of providing seamless legal and regulatory services to our valuable clients and to create a full service law firm,” he added.

IC had been expanding aggressively in the last few years, including hiring laterals such as Indrajit Mishra and Tejesh Chitlangi from Finsec, J Sagar Associates (JSA) litigation partner Shiraj Salelkar Nishith Desai Associates' Sambhav Ranka, as well as promoting internally.

Universal had entered Mumbai in 2009 with partner Sharanya G, who eventually joined Advaya Legal in 2014.

In 2015 Universal opened a small outpost in Ahmedabad.

Bithika Anand, founder and CEO of legal market consultancy Legal League Consulting, which facilitated the merger, said in a separate statement: “This was a very interesting merger as we could identify a perfect synergy from day one. The diversity between the practice areas and geographical presence of the two firms are highly complementary to each other.”

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