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Luthra billings up 36 - 78% despite fewer lawyers and ‘bad year’: Saraf

Mohit Saraf: Pessimistic about economy, optimistic about firm
Mohit Saraf: Pessimistic about economy, optimistic about firm
Luthra & Luthra transactional billings in the corporate transactional division have shot up by between 36 and 78 per cent over the last three quarters, claimed the firm’s senior partner Mohit Saraf less than six months after internally announcing a radical strategy shake-up to improve plummeting profits at the firm.

“We’ve been able to achieve a lot,” Saraf told Legally India. “We’ve been able to rationalise the firm a lot.”

He said that between April and December 2013 billings in the corporate division of the firm had increased by 36 per cent compared to the same nine month period in 2012. The corporate division includes all practices at the firm except for tax advisory, intellectual property and litigation work, which are accounted for in separate profit centres.

Billings in the tax advisory practice shot up by 78 per cent and litigation was “a different ballgame”, according to Saraf. The litigation practice, which is in a separate partnership from corporate, continued growing at 30 to 40 per cent in billings as it had done for the past two or three years “when corporate has been going down”. 

The bills actually recovered from corporate transactional clients so far this financial year increased by 18 per cent, noted Saraf, while the tax division’s recovery was up 61 per cent against the same period in 2012.

1 April – 31 December 2013 vs same period 2012

Corporate: +36%
Tax: +78%
Litigation: +30-40%

Recovered billings
Corporate: +18%
Tax: +61%

At the same time the number of lawyers at the firm had reduced by 10 per cent through a mix of “natural and intentional” reductions. “Our aim is to become very focused and improve efficiency,” he said, which resulted in billings per lawyer having increased by 30 per cent as against the same period last year.

However, the lock-up period – the time it takes for clients to pay after billings – remained roughly the same at a period of between three and four months, said the senior partner.

Despite the bump in figures, Saraf remained as bearish about the economy this “bad year” as he was six months ago.

“The market has not improved at all, only the Sensex has improved,” he said. “I don’t think the level of legal work has improved. I think we’ve been more efficient – we are very focused on business development, making a lot of effort, and focused on what we need to grow. Those are the things that are helping.”

The firm promoted two to partnership over the weekend.

In 2013 six Luthra partners left or announced they would, including tax partner SR Patnaik and litigation partner Ajit Warrier who both joined Amarchand, capital markets partner Madhurima Mukherjee, and partners Nivedita Tiwari, Moushami Joshi and Shweta Hingorani.

Two partners were promoted in August, coinciding with Luthra’s new strategic vision to focus on higher margin work, avoid work that was not the firm’s core specialty and to keep headcounts under control.

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