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NLS rules in Big Six partnership tracks ahead of DU, GLC, ILS as newer nationals slowly gain share

Partner promotions across Big Six since 2009: NLSIU rules the roost
Partner promotions across Big Six since 2009: NLSIU rules the roost

NLSIU Bangalore, Delhi University (DU), GLC Mumbai and ILS Pune have given India’s biggest law firms more than three times as many internally promoted partners than most other younger law schools since 2009, although NLIU Bhopal and Symbiosis Pune are close on their heels followed by Nalsar Hyderabad and NUJS Kolkata.

NLSIU and DU have been favourite undergraduate colleges with both Amarchand Mangaldas and Luthra & Luthra in the last four years, while at Khaitan & Co and J Sagar Associates (JSA), GLC Mumbai dominated, according to Legally India’s analysis of internal partnership promotions at India’s six largest firms in the last four years.

Amarchand: 38% NLS, 14% DU, 12% ILS

Out of 50 Amarchand partners made up in the last four years, 19 are from NLSIU, seven from DU and six from ILS (the alma mater of two Delhi partners could not be confirmed, as Amarchand Delhi declined repeated requests for confirmation or comment).

Amarchand Mumbai partner Vandana Shroff told Legally India via email that the first partner to be internally promoted at the firm from NLSIU was the “lovely and intelligent” V Umakanth (1995 batch, promoted in 2000), who is now assistant professor at NUS Singapore. 

From 2011, Amarchand also promoted partners from NUJS and Nalsar, beginning in 2011 with a Nalsar 2003 campus recruit for its Hyderabad office.

In subsequent years 2005 graduates (and campus recruits) from those two newer national law schools also rose the ranks, with two Nalsar alumns and one NUJS graduate being promoted in 2012, and two NUJS graduates getting the nod in 2013.

Luthra: 50% NLS

At Luthra & Luthra nine out of 19 partners internally promoted since 2009 are NLSIU alumni, with five having studied at DU.

The remaining five partners are from five different law schools.

JSA: GLC, DU-heavy

J Sagar Associates promoted the most partners from GLC Mumbai – nine in total since 2009 - followed by seven partners from DU, out of a total of 35 promoted since 2009.

Mumbai partner Dina Wadia wrote in an email: “Quite frankly we have never even thought of [the law school a partner belongs to] and it never figures in our criteria to elevate attorneys. The only thing I can think of is that these are the dominant universities or colleges in our main centers of Delhi, Gurgaon and Mumbai.”

However, JSA had traditionally eschewed campus recruitments from national law schools because of a longer internship-based recruitment process that implicitly favoured those from colleges such as GLC Mumbai that allow ongoing term-time internships (Legally India reported in 2010, how JSA had changed its internship policy to encourage the recruitment of students from other colleges).

Khaitan: GLC & NLIU

At Khaitan, GLC Mumbai also ruled the roost with eight partners out of a total 23 who were internally promoted since 2009. Khaitan human resources head Swapnakant Samal explained: “Most of our hiring which happened when our Bombay office opened was lateral. Obviously localites were preferred because they were available at that point of time. So it is nothing to do with GLC per se.”

Khaitan also made up three partners each from NLSIU and from NLIU, which is the oldest established national law university after NLSIU. “We started visiting Bhopal from 2004 and started hiring from campus. People also used to be invited to Bombay [office of Khaitan] – a couple of people who had done good internships and moots were invited,” noted Samal.

Aakash Choubey was the first NLIU Bhopal graduate to be internally promoted to partnership at the firm. Khaitan corporate partner Rabindra Jhunjhunwala was the first NLSIU graduate to be promoted at the firm.

Samal added: “[Hiring at] NLS took some time to get established. After we were seen as an able recruiter, we started going to them from 2009 onwards. With Bangalore, sometimes you will get [recruits], sometimes you will not get – it is that kind of a story.”

Trilegal: Spread with ILS on top

At Trilegal, which promoted 10 to the partnership in the last four years, partners were more evenly spread out. Four ILS Pune partners at Trilegal stood out, followed by two each from NLSIU and ILI.

Trilegal Delhi partner Anand Prasad said: “We don’t think in terms of alumni and we don't even want clusters of that nature. Nobody keeps an eye on which law school and there is no special bonding because of law schools. [Everyone] bond[s] with each other.”

“[Although] there are more corporate partners than anything else and at least in the foreseeable future there are to be more corporate partners than in any other practice areas,” he added.

“Once you have been in the system for 7 to 8 years, or 10 years, you are identified by the kind of clients you hold and the competence you hold rather than which institution you are from,” commented Samal.


AZB has shown a preference for NLSIU and Delhi University, with three and two partners coming from the colleges in the last four years respectively, out of a total of 10 promotions.

The firm also promoted one each from GLC and Nalsar. The firm declined repeated requests for confirmation of partners or comment.

Undergraduate alma mater of Big Six law firm partners since 2009

  Amarchand JSA Khaitan Luthra AZB Trilegal Total
NLSIU Bangalore (est 1987) 19 2 3 9 3 2 38
Delhi University 7 7 2 5 2 2 24
GLC Mumbai 2 9 8   1 1 21
ILS Pune 6 3 2 1   4 16
NLIU Bhopal (1997) 1 2 3     1 7
Symbiosis Pune 2 4 1       7
Nalsar Hyderabad (1998) 3     1 1   5
NUJS Kolkata (1999) 3 1 1       5
Bangalore University 1 1 1   1   4
Nagpur Univ   1     1   2
Cardiff University (UK)       1   1 2
New Law College, Mumbai     1       1
Warwick (UK) 1           1
LSE (UK) 1           1
Oxford (UK) 1           1
Amity Law School         1   1
Kerala Law Academy       1     1
Jiwaji University, Gwalior       1     1
Vanderbilt College     1       1
University of Wales 1           1
Lucknow University   1         1
Army Institute of Law Mohali   1         1
KLE Law Society   1         1
SRJC Of Law   1         1
Meerut University   1         1
  48 35 23 19 10 11 145

Source: Legally India archive stories & research by Legally India.

Additional research by Abhyuday Bhotika.

Further analysis of four years of partnership promotions to follow.

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