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Research reveals best associates, law firms, near-universal client complaints

Law firm clients: laughing or crying?
Law firm clients: laughing or crying?
Exclusive: Clients have been most impressed with associates at S&R Associates and Vaish Associates, according to a survey from consultancy RSG India, as Amarchand Mangaldas and AZB & Partners topped a ranking of Indian best law firms.

In the last year Indian law firms also grew lawyer headcounts by an average of 20 per cent while partner numbers only increased by 5 per cent.

Client associate ratings

Associate ranking Law firm Avg client rating of associates
1 S&R Associates 9.3
2 Vaish & Associates 9.0
3 Kochhar & Co 8.6
4 Nishith Desai Associates 8.6
5 Talwar Thakore Associates 8.6
6 Desai & Diwanji 8.6
7 Kanga & Co 8.3
8 Economic Laws Practice 8.2
9 AZB & Partners 8.1
10 Trilegal 8.0
11 J Sagar Associates 7.9
12 Bharucha & Partners 7.8
13 Platinum Partners 7.8
14 D.H. Law Associates 7.8
15 Luthra & Luthra 7.7
16 Majmudar & Co 7.7
17 Khaitan & Co 7.6
18 DSK Legal 7.5
19 Amarchand & Mangaldas 7.3
20 Juris Corp 7.2
21 Mulla & Mulla 7.1
22 Crawford Bayley 7.0
23 ALMT Legal 7.0
24 Fox Mandal 6.8
25 Dua Associates 6.3

Out of 70 interviewed and researched firms, this year’s report ultimately included five new firms in the top 40, including Tatva Legal, P&A Law Offices, Indus Law, India Law Services and Lexygen.

Amarchand Mangaldas was ranked top ahead of AZB & Partners both receiving almost top marks across all categories, as first reported by Mint on Monday.

Khaitan & Co and J Sagar Associates tied in third position scores ahead of Luthra & Luthra and Trilegal in joint fifth place.

The top 10 of transactional firms according to RSG is rounded out by DSK Legal, Desai & Diwanji and Nishith Desai Associates.

“In part, the intense fragmentation of the Indian legal market is fuelled by the lack of institutional client loyalty, the booming Indian economy, the low levels of client service from the top law firms and the culture of entrepreneurialism among young Indian lawyers,” noted RSG.

Poor service levels

According to RSG, because demand outstripped supply Indian lawyers could “still call the shots with clients”.

Nearly all out of 300 client reports on law firms said they were dissatisfied with service levels, with Indian law firms’ lack of bandwidth, particularly at the junior and mid-ranking partner level, accounting for 29 per cent of all responses.

Around 15 per cent cited lack of capacity, practice areas/offices with a similar figure not having been impressed by service and timeliness levels.

Billing and poor quality of work came fourth and fifth with less than 10 per cent of client feedback being negative.

However, clients rated the top five law firms highly for “expertise”.

Impressive associates

“Indian law firms have grown by 20 per cent on average since last year showing that the legal market is booming. However, the numbers of partners overall has only grown by 5 per cent despite over half the firms in the top 10 reviewing their compensation systems,” stated the report.

The lack of partner bandwidth was reflected in client feedback, with the top five firms scoring significantly lower than last year in the “availability” category.

However, clients interviewed registered the highest satisfaction level with the associates at S&R Associates, Vaish & Associates, Kochhar & Co, Nishith Desai Associates, Talwar Thakore Associates and Desai & Diwanji (see table right).

Out of RSG’s top 10-ranked firms clients were least satisfied with Amarchand Mangaldas, DSK Legal and Khaitan & Co – respectively in 19th, 18th and 17th place.

The report had interviewed and solicited ratings of Indian law firms’ performances from 231 clients, of which 103 were multi-nationals, 41 were in the ET500, and 11 were amongst India’s 20 largest companies. Banks and financial institutions made up 30 per cent of the sample group.

RSG interviewed at least five clients per firm in all cases except one firm ranked below 20th, with an average of between eight and 10 client feedback ratings received per firm.

Photo by JD Hancock

2011 Rank

Firm Name

No of Partners

No of lawyers

Quality

Profile

Capability

Total

1

Amarchand & Mangaldas

48

545

9

9

9

27

2

AZB & Partners

20

220

9

9

8

26

3

J Sagar Associates

40

225

8

8

8

24

3

Khaitan & Co

45

250

8

8

8

24

5

Luthra & Luthra

34

200

8

7

7

22

5

Trilegal

17

142

8

7

7

22

7

DSK Legal

16

90

8

7

6

21

8

Desai & Diwanji

16

142

7

6

7

20

8

Nishith Desai Associates

6

71

8

7

5

20

10

Anand & Anand

9

59

8

6

5

19

10

Lakshmi Kumaran & Sridharan

20

120

8

6

5

19

10

S&R Associates

5

40

8

6

5

19

13

Kochhar & Co

20

180

7

5

6

18

13

Mulla & Mulla

15

115

6

6

6

18

15

Bharucha & Partners

5

37

7

5

5

17

15

Crawford Bayley & Co

17

100

6

5

6

17

15

Majmudar & Co

8

68

6

6

5

17

15

Wadia Ghandy & Co

13

112

6

5

6

17

19

Dua Associates

40

190

5

5

6

16

19

Economic Laws Practice

18

62

6

5

5

16

19

Fox Mandal

50

400

5

5

6

16

19

Platinum Partners

5

27

7

5

4

16

19

Talwar Thakore & Associates

6

22

7

5

4

16

19

Vaish Associates

12

102

7

5

4

16

25

ALMT Legal

19

96

5

5

5

15

25

Kanga & Co

12

50

6

4

5

15

25

Tatva Legal

10

80

6

5

4

15

28

Juris Corp

10

50

6

4

4

14

28

Rajani Associates

8

41

6

4

4

14

28

Rajinder Narain & Co

3

29

6

5

3

14

31

DH Law

4

24

6

4

3

13

31

P&A Law

1

18

7

4

2

13

31

Phoenix Legal

4

31

6

4

3

13

31

Udwadia & Udeshi

7

30

5

4

4

13

35

ARA Law

3

18

5

4

3

12

35

Hemant Sahai Associates

8

48

5

4

3

12

35

Indus Law

8

49

5

4

3

12

35

Tyabji Dayabhai

3

8

6

4

2

12

39

India Law Services

4

25

5

4

2

11

39

Lexygen

3

15

5

4

2

11

Source: RSG Consulting

Methodology: The quality score is derived from deals league table performance in M&A, project finance, private equity and capital markets by value and volume in the past one and three years, feedback from clients on quality of work, expertise and service delivery.

The profile is based on a count of total number of mentions and qualitative feedback from clients, Indian lawyers and foreign lawyers, with greater weight given to unprompted recommendations.

The capability scores are based on the size of the law firm by number of lawyers and estimated turnover, capability by practice area and locations, feedback from clients on ability to handle large scale work and client assessment of the firm’s bandwidth.

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