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Goings, comings / Issue 66

Legally India newsletter
Legally India newsletter

It is fair to say that a sizable number of Indian senior associates and junior partners are preoccupied with equity, or rather a lack of it.

In this context Khaitan & Co has so far been notable for all its all-equity partnership. While a universally accepted sharing of profits is not guaranteed under any system, the performance-cum-seniority-linked equity sharing model appears to have served Khaitan well in its successful reinvention as a corporate firm in Mumbai over the past decade. Much of that was achieved by a continuous flow of lateral hires. And names like Ravi Kulkarni, who joined Khaitan Mumbai in 2005, can not generally be made to stay only on a salary.

However, Khaitan’s all-equity partnership is now no more with the induction of Rajat Mukherjee, who joined from Skadden in New York. He is the firm’s 42nd partner and first salaried associate partner. Apart from the fact that Khaitan’s total partnership numbers are now within reaching distance of Amarchand’s figure of 48, however, this is Khaitan & Co’s recognition that it can only go so much further under the existing structure.

Internal associate career advancement has been one of Khaitan & Co’s weaknesses for a while. And although attrition can be held in check by incentives like salaries and bonuses for a time, often it is that new business card with the word partner on it that remains the strongest motivator, even without equity attached.

There is usually little equity in the career move from private practice to in-house, which could explain why it is still not as common or attractive in India as it needs to be. In the UK it certainly is, as Freshfields senior associate Sheena Singla, will take up the job to run the legal department of Indian power giant and FTSE 100 company Essar Energy.

Majmudar & Co has also added one more partner to take its total partnership to a more modest seven, planning to expand particularly in its second office Bangalore. And in the IP space two major moves this week as the powerhouse specialist firm Remfry & Sagar lost two of its experienced partners to Lakshmikumaran & Sridharan, who will there head up the firm’s IP offering. An interesting question asked by Spicy IP blog: what will happen to the Novartis Glivec patent saga that is currently in the Supreme Court? Conflict is on the cards.

Meanwhile, the Indian bench and bar has been in turmoil this week as Chief Justice of India (CJI) Kapadia sent letters to 20 judges asking them to go and do their job elsewhere – and ostensibly not for a well-deserved holiday. The word on the street is that Kapadia has an even longer list of names in one of his desk drawers, which may very well see the light of day if these transfers go smoothly.

Ironically, one of the strongest disincentives to addressing judicial corruption also reared its head again this week, as former law minister Bhushan told a court that 8 out of 16 most recent CJI’s were “definitely corrupt”. Bhushan’s son and a magazine editor are facing contempt of court proceedings for making/publishing a slightly stronger claim last year.

While the judicial sheen of invincibility may slowly be cracking, at present they are unlikely to be going anywhere further than across state lines.

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