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Shardul Amarchand dips below Rs 15-16 lakh base pay hike it had announced 2 years ago

Will SAM or Won’t SAM... pay more than 15?
Will SAM or Won’t SAM... pay more than 15?

Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas (SAM) is offering multiple campus recruits base pay below the Rs 15-16 lakh fixed package that it had promised to students and announced to media in a record hike in 2015, that had placed the firm near the top of the fresher salary table.

According to several authoritative sources, SAM has in fact offered many new joiners only Rs 14 lakh of fixed pay in total, without any bonuses.

A source with knowledge of the development told us that 2017 recruits from a top law school had all been verbally promised Rs 15.6 lakh in base pay during Day Zero in April 2016, though as is common amongst top firms, no documentation or agreements were provided to students at the time.

Only after the 2017 graduates joined Shardul Amarchand, were they provided an agreement several weeks ago that stated that they would only be paid Rs 14 lakh in total.

It is understood that several recruits are considering refusing to sign those retainers and are weighing up their options, including continuing discussions with SAM's HR team, alumni and their former placement cells, while also exploring the option of potentially joining rival firms.

Another 2017 graduate joining SAM this year also confirmed that the final offer for joining was for only Rs 14 lakh.

Another graduate told us that last year, among recruits from graduating batches of 2016, only the top few scorers of a batch had been offered Rs 15 lakh whereas everyone else had been offered Rs 14 lakh.

A SAM spokesperson declined to confirm the firm's base pay range, noting that pay bands were generally not communicated to students during interviews as a matter of policy and that the range was very broad, based on multiple factors.

SAM's spokesperson added in an emailed statement: “Our compensation is determined across a band, depending on multiple parameters including academic performance, practice area, market dynamics, etc. and is in line with industry standards. Given the firm’s continued outstanding performance, we provide our young lawyers with best-in-class work experience and learning opportunities, and have a long term plan for enriching their careers at the firm.”

A few other firms may also operate differential salary bands, with Luthra & Luthra, for instance, having historically offered graduates from the older national law schools higher salaries, as well as paying significantly lower starting salaries in some departments of the firm, such as litigation.

The 2015 salary wars

On 8 April 2015, our comparison of pay hikes across the top firms in Mint was topped by Khaitan & Co offering Rs 14.4 lakh per annum to freshers excluding a maximum bonus of Rs 1.8 lakh. Trilegal had also upped its base pay to Rs 13 lakh plus up to Rs 2.2 lakh of bonuses.

At that time we had recorded Amarchand Mangaldas Delhi, as it was during its separation from Amarchand Mumbai, still offering its 2010 salary of Rs 12.5 lakh plus up to Rs 1.5 lakh bonuses. Erstwhile Amarchand Mumbai, had by then already revised its pay to Rs 12 lakh per year plus up to Rs 3 lakh bonus.

But Bar & Bench, citing market sources, then reported around the same time that Shardul Amarchand, as it would soon become, was offering Rs 15 lakh per year to fresh recruits. Our campus sources also confirmed that the revised pay offered by Shardul Amarchand to students was from Rs 14 to 15 lakh.

However, on 13 May 2015, Amarchand Delhi managing partner Shardul Shroff officially confirmed the salary hike to us as being even greater than that. “It’s in the range of Rs 15 - 16 lakh, depending on the quality (of recruit) we get... (It applies) retrospectively also - the base level is between 15 to 16 depending on how the candidate is,” he said.

“This is without any variable,” Shroff had explained about the new system. “It’s 100% of what they would have otherwise got in the old firm - we had a 10% variable structure in the past - we’ve now formulated 100% of what we fixed will be what they get (for freshers).”

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