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Clasis co-founder Shalini Agarwal quits, starts legal ‘embassy’ firm in London

Agarwal: Sets up India-UK law firm-consultancy hybrid
Agarwal: Sets up India-UK law firm-consultancy hybrid

Shalini Agarwal, the co-founder of ALMT Legal and Clasis Law, resigned from Clasis’ partnership on Friday (22 March) to start up her own UK-India legal consultancy boutique.

She will continue to be based in London in her new firm In Se Legal - Latin for ‘in itself’.

The exact structure of the firm was still being finalised, but from Monday (25 March) she plans to offer Indian legal services in her own specialist areas of Indian employment law and with other strategic partners in India, alongside business consultancy services.

In Se Legal would also plan to outsource a lot of Indian legal work to selected domestic lawyers and firms, said Agarwal. “I’m going to give a client a complete solution for a fixed cost. If my own outfit can’t do it, then we will handpick individual advisers… I will not be competing with my referral sources – 80 per cent of [my] work comes from international sources.”

She said that in a personal capacity, outside of what would likely become an In Se law firm partnership, she would also offer executive briefings, workshops and assist with various other service providers to service all non-legal requirements that foreign companies with business in India might require.

“[In Se is] not just a bog standard law firm that’s going to be chasing dollars,” added Agarwal. “Although I’m a lawyer - qualified since 1990, 22 years in the race - I enjoy a lot of other areas of work which aren’t strictly in the legal domain.”

“I like to play an ambassadorial role for India, interfacing with the UK, Europe and the USA with specific emphasis on Holland and Germany,” she explained. “On the side I pick up work but my interest is promoting the country I like the best.”

But unlike a government-owned embassy, she added, her firm could “dole out the good with the bad” about India. “That’s an example of bridging the cultural gap. I’m totally Indian but having lived and worked in the West, as a diplomat’s daughter I really believe that my offering is slightly different from Indian firms.”

Another selling proposition would be the firm’s London headquarters. “There is no Indian law firm other [than Singhania & Co, Clasis and ALMT in London] that I know of, at least, and all of which I co-founded, where they actually have lawyers on the ground,” noted Agarwal.

However, she said that she would keep the structure “mean and lean rather than expanding the base in London”, which would add to the cost. “Having done this for 20 years I don’t want to build up a multimillion pound practice. I love the marketing and networking side; I am a people's person.

“If I make enough to finance myself and a little bit on the side, I’m happy.”

Clasis in se

Agarwal was one of the founders of Clasis, which broke away from ALMT Legal in early 2011 and continues its best-friend relationship with UK-international firm Clyde & Co, which has a strong focus in transport and shipping law.

Clasis London partner Sakate Khaitan commented in an email email: “Shalini left to pursue an independent practice. We are grateful to Shalini for her contribution to the growth and establishment of Clasis Law.”

It is understood that Clasis’ Mumbai partner Renu Parekh resigned from the firm in January of this year.

Clasis remains with eight partners across Mumbai, Delhi and London: Ishtiaq Ali, Vineet Aneja, Sagar Divekar, Sakate Khaitan, Sumeet Lall, Harsh Pratap, Sidanth Rajogopal and Damodara Rao.

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