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Two years after merger, Singh, Lall & Sethi to separate again, as Chander Lall senior designation delayed

Chander Lall expected to become senior counsel after Delhi gets next chief justice soon

Chander Lall: Senior in waiting, managing partner in going
Chander Lall: Senior in waiting, managing partner in going

IP powerhouse Singh & Singh & Lall & Sethi (SS&LS), just over two years after it was created in the merger of IP firms Singh & Singh and Lall & Sethi, will be breaking into two again after SS&LS managing partner Chander Lall is expected to get designated this year as a senior advocate by the Delhi high court.

Lall told us today that he had applied for the designation and that this was the main (but not only) motivation behind the demerger. It is understood that a full court meeting of the Delhi high court, finalising the new round of senior designations, was to be held on 14 March but has been postponed indefinitely.

The Advocates Act 1961 does not allow senior advocates to be part of law firms.

Lall said that as he was the only head of SS&LS, with the eight other salaried partners all functioning in the same non-leading role, the need was felt to split the firm in two. The firm has already taken a new office in Delhi’s Defence Colony, to which Singh & Singh will move, with its litigation team.

Lall & Sethi will also have its IP litigation and prosecution team. SS&LS’ equity, which is currently held by Lall, will be allocated to the firm’s current salaried partners, some of whom will be part of Singh & Singh. Now and at the time of the merger last year, the firm’s eight partners other than Lall were Anju Khanna, Bitika Sharma, Sudeep Chatterjee, Tejveer Bhatia, Raghav Malik, Saya Choudhary Kapur, Jyotideep Kaur and Tia Malik, alongside 24 other lawyers and 60 staff.

Lall commented: “As a result of the merger [of Singh & Singh with Lall & Sethi] we have become quite a IP powerhouse, resulting in many conflict situations because of which we had to give up work.

"There were cases where we had accepted the brief of one client and much of our other IP work was ousted because of the conflict. This is one of the business reasons behind why we had to demerge.”

“For business reasons we will ensure that there is an arm’s length distance between the two firms. They are new start-ups,” he added.

The demerged firms would have separate accounts, except for the unclosed accounts of SS&LS which would continue for the time being between the demerged firms’ partners who are currently dealing with them. All of SS&LS’ staff would continue to get the same job benefits which they get now when the demerger is complete, said Lall.

Senior advocate Pratibha Singh, who founded Singh & Singh in 1999 but resigned when she was designated a senior advocate in 2013, said she was not aware of the planned demerger, when we contacted her this morning.

Singh & Singh had been founded in 1997 by Maninder Singh and Pratibha Singh, while Lall & Sethi was set up by Lall and Sandeep Sethi (who is also a senior advocate now) in 1994. Lall & Sethi has a large number of international clients, with a note on the firm website noting that Lall & Sethi had in 2014 represented “the interests” of 22 out of 100 top global brands, according to the Interbrand survey.

Delhi high court chief justice G Rohini will retire on 8 April, and the next round of seniors is expected to be designated in a full court meeting some time after Rohini’s successor takes the oath.

SS&LS was formed in February 2015 for the purpose of combining the two firms’ strengths of IP litigation and prosecution.

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