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Clydes, Clasis to break off best friendship, as troubled ALMT-breakaway kept refusing to float by self

With Clyde and Clasis frandship no more, Clydes website India section will need updating soon
With Clyde and Clasis frandship no more, Clydes website India section will need updating soon

The nearly 7-year-old best friendship between Clyde & Co and Clasis Law is on the rocks, and due to not continue after 31 March of this year, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the development.

We have reached out to Clyde CEO Peter Hasson and senior partner Simon Konsta for comment.

A Clydes spokesperson said via email yesterday evening, that the firm “won’t be making a comment at this stage”.

It is understood that the break-up is triggered in part by perennial internal partnership and retention difficulties at Clasis under managing partner Vineet Aneja, in addition to limited cross-referrals, according to two sources with knowledge of the break-up.

Aneja today declined to comment on difficulties in the Clasis partnership, but said: “We have had had an association [with Clasis] since 2011, and like any other business we review the relationship from time to time, to ensure it will work for clients.”

He added that Clasis would continue working with Clydes, but said he would not comment further at this point.

While best friendships are usually not exclusive, Clydes, for one, has been working with several Indian law firms other than Clasis for a while now, such as Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas on public sector IPOs.

Hard Brexit?

Due to regulatory restrictions, law firm best friendships can range from vague to near-backoffice.

In the Clydes Clasis case, Clasis and its partners (at least one of whom has left) are still prominently mentioned by name on the India microsite of the UK-international law firm.

While the relationship had been getting cooler between the firms for a while now, and with Clasis’ website being an ‘under construction’ placeholder, the only overt sign of the break-up may be changes to Clydes website in the coming months.

It is also not the first (but possibly the last) of the best friendships to fall apart: AZB & Partners and Clifford Chance broke up in 2011 over a lack of referrals, followed by Trilegal and Allen & Overy for similar reasons in 2012.

Two pins on Clydes India map, as associated offices
Two pins on Clydes India map, as associated offices

Steering the ship

Vineet Aneja nearly the last man standing, again
Vineet Aneja nearly the last man standing, again

The relationship between Clyde and Clasis started even before Clasis was born, with ALMT Legal, in 2009.

Clasis, of course, was an offshoot of ALMT in 2011, inheriting the Clydes relationship.

The break-up happened only half-a-year after the hire of corporate partner Aneja from Luthra & Luthra in September 2010, which he had joined only a year earlier from rapidly disintegrating FoxMandal Little, as it then was.

Aneja commented at the time: “This is the kind of role which I had been looking at which gives me the ability and opportunity to lead and set up an office in Delhi.”

That opportunity did not turn out well.

Expansionist ambitions

Even in ALMT days, a problem in the relationship with Clydes had been a lack of referrals, according to ALMT after the break-up.

Since going independent, Clasis has not had an easier time of it, with a life marked by frequent expansion, followed by even more frequent exits.

Clasis started out strong, hiring Sumeet Lall as litigation partner from Parekh & Co in 2011, who is one of the few lateral hires who is still around to this day.

Later that year, best friend Clyde & Co senior associate Sidanth Rajagopal joined as an aviation partner, and shipping lawyer Harsh Pratap joined in 2012.

In 2013, the firm also hired from Grant Thornton indirect tax director Manoj Mishra, and Jay Cheema from Dhir & Dhir as an infrastructure partner.

It didn’t take long for everything to begin to unravel.

Co-founders, exeunt

In 2013, ALMT co-founding partner Shalini Agarwal, who had moved to Clasis during the breakup, left to go independent.

Rajagopal returned to Clydes in 2013. Clasis could have hoped to chalk this down as a quasi-secondment to strengthen the Clasis-Clyde relationship, but he ended up moving to Kaye Scholar in 2014.

In 2014, this was followed by Clasis co-founding partner Sakate Khaitan leaving with his Mumbai team to start Khaitan Legal Associates.

A short time later, Clasis’ entire Mumbai projects team under Ishtiaq Ali , who had also co-founded Clasis from ALMT, also went independent.

By November 2014, Aneja was the only original Clasis co-founding partner left at the firm, when Pratap, who had been hired in 2012, also departed.

The cycle repeats

Besides internal promotions, some external hires continued to happen though: Ashwin Sapra was roped in to head up its IP and healthcare vertical, and by January 2015, JurisCorp partner Mustafa Motiwala joined Clasis in Mumbai to rebuild the office from scratch.

Motiwala is the only major lateral hire as far as we can see, who’s still around at Clasis today, but his joining was followed by the hire of Lakshmikumaran & Sridharan IP partner Rahul Beruar, who’s not.

Only two months later in 2015, Manoj Mishra and Jay Cheema, who had both joined only two years earlier, had quit Clasis, as IP head Ashwin Sapra was poached by Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas.

Beruar, hired in 2015, lasted a sliver longer than most others, starting his own firm in Beruar & Beruar in January of this year.

Clasis Litigator Jaideep Singh, whom Clasis Law had hired in 2016 in Delhi, is also understood to have quit this year, and re-started his independent practice, with offices in Jaipur and Delhi.

The Clyde & Co associated Delhi-office website, lists the following contacts for Clasis:

  • Vineet Aneja
  • Mustafa Motiwala
  • Sumeet Lall
  • Rachna Khanna
  • Gaurav Wahie
  • Shwetabh Sinha
  • Jaideep Singh (who has gone independent)
  • Priyanka Anand
  • Neetika Ahuja
  • Parul Kashyap

The Mumbai office lists Motiwala, Aneja and Vikram Bhargava and Barasha Baruah Pathak.

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