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First NLS grad takes silk: White & Case partner, Jessup legend Dipen Sabharwal becomes elite senior Queen’s Counsel in UK

India Jessup winner Dipen Sabharwal takes highest honour of the UK bar
India Jessup winner Dipen Sabharwal takes highest honour of the UK bar

White & Case London partner and illustrious NLSIU Bangalore alumnus Dipen Sabharwal has been bestowed the prestigious Queen’s Counsel (QC) tag by the bar of England & Wales.

It is the latest inroads graduates of India’s first national law school have made into global legal practice, after now regularly featuring in international partnership promotions (besides senior counsel designations in India now).

The 2001-graduate Sabharwal is well-known in the NLS and arbitration community, having been part of the team to win the Jessup moot in 1999, at which he has also been a judge since 2003.

He also heads White & Case’s EMEA disputes section for international arbitration, having been promoted to White & Case’s partnership in 2012.

He specialises in international commercial, construction and investment treaty arbitrations, and is triple-qualified in England, New York and India, and often works for Indian clients.

On top of that, he was Radhakrishnan Chevening scholarship, under which he completed a BCL at Oxford University in 2002, which he followed up by an LLM from the University of Michigan Law School in 2003. Plus, he also lectures at King’s College London and is the India Rapporteur for the Institute for Transnational Arbitration, according to his White & Case profile.

This year, Sabharwal was one of four solicitor advocates working at law firms to have taken silk alongside 104 barristers, as it’s colloquially described in the English bar in reference to the silk gowns worn by QCs.

The others, according to the Law Society Gazette are Sabharwal’s fellow White & Case partner and international arbitration co-head Aloke Ray (who appears to be of Indian origin, as well as Allen & Overy partner Mark Levy and boutique Fietta LLP principal Stephen Lewis Fietta.

The solicitor advocate stream of the bifurcated legal profession in the UK was created by reforms in 1990, to allow solicitors (e.g. lawyers working in law firms) to enjoy higher rights of audience before the courts of England & Wales, which was traditionally the reserve of barristers.

The QC tag, much like being a senior counsel in India, is mostly an honorary ceremonial designation bestowed to the most meritorious experienced practitioners at the English bar after application, though - much like becoming a senior counsel - it can carry with it a significant uplift in fees a lawyer can charge.

Update 13:52: Sabharwal commented: “As an international arbitration specialist, I spend a significant amount of time doing advocacy.

“I am delighted that this advocacy has been recognised through my appointment as a QC. I have been leading teams over the last seven years as a partner so I don’t expect the designation to change my practice dramatically in the short term.

“In the common law world, however, the title of QC stands as a badge of quality and excellence for both peers and clients, and I am very grateful for my designation.”

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