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Hemant Sahai and Paras Kuhad merge

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Hemant Sahai Associates and Paras Kuhad & Associates have merged to create a firm of over 100 lawyers and streamlined office locations, following significant headcount reductions.

The new merged firm is called PHA Advocates and will consist of "115 lawyers, led by 10 partners, with offices located in New Delhi, Mumbai, Jaipur, Chennai and Kolkata", according to a joint statement from the firms.

However, Paras Kuhad & Associates retains 120 lawyers and 25 paralegals and has further offices in Jodhpur and Pune, according to its website.

Hemant Sahai Associates founder Hemant Sahai said that his firm consisted of around 45 lawyers with offices in Delhi and Mumbai.

This should have resulted in a merged firm of 165 lawyers in size, rather than 115 as jointly announced by the firms.

Sahai denied that offices would be shut down or that staff would be lost at the merged firm: "All of the offices will continue where they are. But basically we will focus more on the five main locations."

Four partners will come from Hemant Sahai's firm, five from Paras Kuhad's and one lateral partner is set to join from AZB & Partners shortly, explained Sahai.

Sahai will be the managing and co-founding partner of PHA Advocates, with Paras Kuhad & Associates founder Paras Kuhad being designated co-founding partner and present on the firm's executive committee.

Sahai said that with his former firm's strength in corporate commercial work and Paras Kuhad's firm's focus on banking and litigation, the practices were a good fit without conflicts.

"The underlying philosophy is to try and get two practices that are not in a common space. We are pretty confident that there could be significant synergy."

HSA has lost several high profile partners in the past year, including its Mumbai office head Saurabh Awasthi, Delhi regulatory and projects litigator Sitesh Mukherjee who joined Trilegal with a team of four.

Paras Kuhad's Kolkata office head Niloy Pyne had left to start up Khaitan & Partners in Kolkata.

Sahai admitted that the size of his former firm had decreased but insisted that the merger was not precipitated by the departures.

"The size had decreased because some people had left and some we had asked to leave. But our planned strength had not decreased," he said, adding that the firm had continued to grow organically.

Hemant Sahai's remaining Mumbai team of around 5 lawyers will move into Paras Kuhad's larger offices.

Sahai said that an as-yet unnamed partner from AZB would be joining there shortly and that he wanted the former Hemant Sahai Associates side of the practice in Mumbai to expand to 15 lawyers.

In Delhi, Paras Kuhad's team will temporarily move into HSA's office of around 25 lawyers while looking for new joint premises.

The two firms have had informal on-and-off merger discussions for at least one year but the current merger talks were only started one month ago.

Sahai and Kuhad reached agreement on 28 September and announced the merger to their respective firms on 29 September.

The merger took effect from yesterday (1 October).

Hemant Sahai Associates previously also operated from Bangalore and Goa affiliate offices, but Sahai told Legally India that these have been closed for "some time".

Kuhad declined to comment.

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