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Luthra launches radical strategy shake-up after ‘profitability beating’: promotes two partners, 17 associates

Saraf: Aims to increase margins
Saraf: Aims to increase margins

Luthra & Luthra has promoted two M&A and private equity lawyers – Damini Bhalla and Amit Shetye – to its partnership, as the firm has widened its executive committee and management outlined a strategic vision to ditch lower margin work and eschew big headcounts.

Bhalla initially practised in Luthra’s Mumbai office, then spent two years in Clifford Chance in London, before returning to Luthra in Delhi.

Shetye joined Luthra in 2007 from ICICI Bank in Mumbai.

Bhalla and Shetye both graduated in 2005, from Nalsar Hyderabad and ILS Pune respectively. Last year Luthra had promoted a total of six to partner.

The firm promoted eight lawyers to managing associate, and nine to senior associate level (see below).

Luthra also expanded its executive committee from three partners – managing partner Rajiv Luthra, senior partner Mohit Saraf, and Delhi project finance partner Sameen Vyas – to six, by adding Mumbai projects partner Vijaya Rao, Delhi corporate partner Samir Dudhoria, and Delhi regulatory partner Sundeep Dudeja.

Saraf said that Saturday (3 August) began with a “big town hall meeting”, with nearly all lawyers and support staff from all offices flying into Delhi. “Everybody got together, discussed directions of the firm, restructuring, and what we expect in the market.”

The promotions were announced later that day at an evening function held at the Sheraton hotel, at which several awards were also handed out to lawyers in the firm.

The intellectual property and IT team under partner Gayatri Roy won the team of the year, and Mumbai banking and finance partner Bikash Jhawar was given the ‘partners solitaire’ award – “the highest award we give to anybody” in the firm, said senior partner Mohit Saraf, for “the way he built the business, the way he built the team, the next level in client services, all those leadership qualities”.

Strategy

Earlier on Saturday Saraf said he had announced a radical realignment of the firm’s strategy after the firm had grown too large for the past few years, “spreading too thin” in terms of the work it did.

“Our profitability has taken a beating,” he admitted, adding: “We understand that in 2013 the level of things have to be far better if we want to be ahead of the curve. How do you transform this firm as a go-to-firm for all transaction matters in corporate law?”

The strategy going forward would neither focus on being the largest firm in headcounts nor offices – it currently has offices in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore – explained Saraf and Rajiv Luthra. Instead it would “do very niche transactional” work at high billing rates and not compete on price with rivals.

“The biggest pressure was that [other comparable-size firms] was dropping rates on anything, and we don’t want to stay in that market. That is not our market, not what we are known as,” noted Saraf. “Routine matters do not actually give you an opportunity of what value you can bring to the table.” Therefore, Luthra would get out of routine matters and “focus on very high-end transactional work”. [Clarification: Saraf has clarified that he intended to refer to pricing pressure across the industry, rather than just pricing pressure from one firm]

Rajiv Luthra commented that over the years the firm gradually started getting into bulk and lower-margin work. “Now we are trying to get out of that because it takes the same management time and rather than have a vision of a 1,000 lawyer firm […]. We felt, let’s focus on the 80/20 rule” – the principle that 20 per cent of clients in most organisations generate 80 per cent of revenues.

“[The idea is not] that we stop small work completely,” he clarified. “The idea is to do small work for big potential clients. But not do small work for small clients who have no potential. [To] focus on the 20 per cent, rather than the 80.”

[Detailed analysis of Luthra’s new strategy coming soon]

Legally India reported yesterday that one partner – Nivedita Tiwari - had joined smaller firm MNK Law Offices, and two others were due to leave the firm in the coming months.

J Sagar Associates (JSA) had promoted 18 into salaried partnership and two into equity, Amarchand Mangaldas had promoted 13 to partner in July, Trilegal none, Khaitan two into equity and five into salaried level, AZB a total of five.

New Luthra managing associates:

  • Anshul Jain (regulatory)
  • Kaushik Laik (capital markets)
  • Khushi Mishra (insurance)
  • Nirupam Lodha (intellectual property)
  • Vaibhav Suri (real estate)
  • Vishal Yaduvanshi (capital markets)
  • Atul Ninawat (direct tax)
  • Gunjan Mishra (indirect tax)

New senior associates:

  • Sujatha Balachander (litigation)
  • Garima Chauhan (tax)
  • Manshoor Nazki (capital markets)
  • Mayank Aggarwal (tax)
  • Komal Mehta (capital markets)
  • Priyanka Singh (project finance)
  • Vivek Aggarwal (corporate compliance)
  • Apoorve Vashistha (litigation)
  • Vardhan Tulsian (litigation)
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