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Khaitan ‘releases’ Comp star Avaantika Kakkar to CAM after only 1 month • SAM’s Akila Agrawal possibly bound for CAM, not so lucky...

Kakkar productive again mercifully quickly, after Khaitan only insists on 1 month of noticeKakkar productive again mercifully quickly, after Khaitan only insists on 1 month of notice

Khaitan & Co had initially been loathe to let partner Avaantika Kakkar leave the firm to Cyril Amarchand, when we first reported her move on 14 April.

But we understand that Kakkar has now joined Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas (CAM) on 16 May, after serving (only) a month’s of notice at Khaitan, which had officially accepted her resignation on 16 April.

Kakkar confirmed: “The team has hit the ground running with some exciting mandates - this has helped settle us down very quickly.”

“It is great to work alongside my colleagues and friends, [CAM partners] Anshuman Sakle and Bharat Budholia,” she added.

Kakkar was joined at Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas by Khaitan’s Dhruv Rajain and Kirthi Srinivas as senior associates and one associate, growing CAM’s competition team to a total fee-earner headcount of around 24, including 4 partners (Budholia, Kakkar, Sakle, and TMT partner Rahul Goel who primarily focuses on technology, media and telecoms).

On notice

Khaitan executive director Amar Sinhji explained about her one-month notice period that the “average notice period” at partner level was three months, and one month for non-partners.

“The reasoning behind the notice period is to allow sufficient time to ensure a proper handover of all matters and to enable us to inform clients and also ensure transition of relationships,” he said. “If all this has been completed, we see no reason to hold back any individual who has clearly decided to move on. It is then in the best interests of the firm and the concerned individual to move on at a mutually agreed date and on a positive note.

“No logical purpose is served by holding a person to a contractual period, if all commitments under that contract have been completed.”

Meanwhile, Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas (SAM) appears to be pushing for long-time corporate partner Akila Agrawal to be settling in for a longer wait: possibly a combined notice period and garden leave of up to 4 months.

We had first reported that Agrawal was leaving on 24 April, which would mean she would only be free to start working again by August.

While we could not authoritatively confirm Agrawal’s eventual destination, we understand from SAM and market sources that the firm is proceeding on the assumption that she will be joining rival Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas (CAM).

Agrawal and SAM did not respond for comment. CAM declined to comment when asked about Agrawal potentially joining the firm.

Noticing trends

Of course, SAM is not alone in insisting on long notice periods.

CAM has a potential maximum notice period of 6 months for equity partners, which was considerably shortened to between six weeks and two months after negotiations with AZB & Partners: the former’s Mumbai team headed by Ashwath Rau moved, while AZB Delhi had agreed to release partner Percy Billimoria from his notice early, in exchange.

And then-CAM partner Nisha Kaur Uberoi had served 9 weeks of notice, before moving to AZB in 2016.

In 2014, what-was-then Amarchand Mangaldas Mumbai had threatened to hold partner Abhimanyu Bhattacharya to a full six months of notice, but eventually allowed him to leave for Khaitan & Co after four.

Update 2 June 2018: As pointed out by a reader, the record may be held (or possibly co-held) by Nikhil Naredi, whom Cyril Amarchand late last year had vowed to hold to 6 months of gardening leave, before being allowed to join Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas. We are trying to confrm when he actually joined SAM.

The case for less notice

The case for shorter notice periods in the industry, may not just be an argument of logic. Although very few if any law firms or partners are ever likely to challenge long notice periods in court as unfair restraint of trade, according to several lawyers spoken to, notice periods extending beyond a few months begin to tread on thin ice, legally speaking.

Another possible counter-argument is that keeping legal professionals out of the market for longer periods of time, deprives the legal market of much-needed talent: after all, it is still generally believed that India is an underlawyered market, at least at the top end.

Finally, as Khaitan’s Sinhji hinted, the value of partners leaving on positive notes can be invaluable (after all, it’s not unheard of for exiting partners to re-join firms). Long notice periods can have a number of unexpected negative knock-on effects in areas such as:

  • morale of teams remaining (and work product) can theoretically be affected when a partner is continuing to work in a firm while one foot is already out the door,
  • clients may get confused or upset about which partner is handling their matters or that their preferred partner has been taken out of the market on garden leave,
  • partners at firms with long notice periods may think twice about being honest about future career plans, or feel that a firm is treating them unfairly as professionals,
  • lateral hires may think twice about joining firms enforcing long notice periods.

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Like +10 Object -0 Guest 01 Jun 18, 22:16  interesting
6 month notice period is frankly ridiculous. its just a means to harass the concerned outgoing partner!
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Like +2 Object -2 kianganz 02 Jun 18, 14:35 LI subscriber
Amusingly, that 'breaking' story is basically identical to what we had reported above, 4 hours before... Sometimes I get so confused :)
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Like +11 Object -8 Pest 01 Jun 18, 23:02  controversial
Then why sign such a contract? If you cannot negotiate your own contract, how can you negotiate for your clients?
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Like +14 Object -3 Roach 02 Jun 18, 02:11  interesting
What an argument (mercy you not an attorney!). Slow clap...
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Like +2 Object -0 Kitchen worker 02 Jun 18, 10:27
Yes, you can. All of us have us little sense of self worth, that when a standard form partnership or retainer deed is given, we just sign.
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Like +7 Object -3 Random 02 Jun 18, 19:17
The ability to negotiate is a function of bargaining power. You ain't a better lawyer because you dictated terms in a deal where your client was willing to walk away.
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Like +2 Object -0 Nikhil Naredi?? 02 Jun 18, 09:08
Didn’t Cyril put him on 6 months gardening leave?
He ofcourse is now at SAM.
Must say Kian, control your anti SAM bias!
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Like +0 Object -0 kianganz 02 Jun 18, 12:12 LI subscriber
Um, 3 of 4ish examples of long notice mentioned in the article were by CAM only. But yes, I forgot about the Nikhil Naredi threat of six months. Am just trying to find out when he eventually and actually ended up joining and will update the article...
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Like +8 Object -0 Shoeshine 02 Jun 18, 11:08  interesting
Congrats Dhruv and Kirthi! All the best for the new roles going ahead!
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Like +1 Object -0 Jammy 02 Jun 18, 11:31
24? Avantika joined with only 3 associates. She could not move any more from KCO! And old cam team is not 21 lawyers. Who is the 4th partner Kian. Avantika has mentioned 2. Clearly a fractured house in CAM competition. Anshuman before Bharat and fourth partner name not mentioned.
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Like +3 Object -0 Alias 02 Jun 18, 13:35
She also took the team secretary with her. May be Kian has also counted him while noting the team strength
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Like +0 Object -0 kianganz 02 Jun 18, 13:37 LI subscriber
The number 4, I think also includes TMT partner Rahul Goel, who also does some competition work. Will update the article to clarify.
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Like +1 Object -1 Update 02 Jun 18, 16:18
Kian- Rahul Goel primarily focuses on competition. You may correct this.

You have already covered number of landmark cases that he has dealt in the past including cement cartel, relevant turnover etc.
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Like +0 Object -0 Comp lawyer 04 Jun 18, 11:44
Rahul Goel and Percy Billimoria
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Like +4 Object -3 Akila fan 02 Jun 18, 15:58
Akila - Please reconsider your decision to join CAM. Its a humble request. You may join some other firm but not CAM. Seriously, you do not deserve this.
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Like +2 Object -1 Gyoza Lover 03 Jun 18, 18:40
Sorry that you got rejected and have to stay on... Your day will come.
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Like +1 Object -0 Bunator VI 02 Jun 18, 17:03
Amazed at the sugar coating. A 3 month notice period is standard across firms for partners. What has happened here is obvious : after KCO came to know that Nisha is leaving for a rival firm, they would have told her to pack up and leave asap after completing a hand over. Not only do they save on salary, they also send a msg across the firm wrt what they do to unwanted ppl. Really sad but HR practices across law firms in our country are abysmal. The smaller firms are actually worse since they are subject to even lesser scrutiny.
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Like +0 Object -0 Lol 03 Jun 18, 01:57
What message? That if you want to leave we’ll let you leave as soon as you want to? I’m pretty sure most Partners would take that over gardening leave
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Like +1 Object -0 Nisha? 04 Jun 18, 09:20
How is Nisha connected with this story, other than being another competition law partner?
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Like +4 Object -0 Not trolling today 04 Jun 18, 02:19
This is a very nice report Kian. The bit about market norm and the impact of long notice periods was good to read. I suppose Akila's team will have some interesting discussions at work tomorrow. I wonder if a report such as this would cause SAM's partnership to reconsider such a lengthy notice period, perhaps from a reputational perspective. The fallacy in their logic is clear to see.
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Like +0 Object -0 Cammie 04 Jun 18, 18:42
Cam never reports associates in press releases. How are senior associates being reported? Looks like [...]
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Like +5 Object -2 Kco insider 04 Jun 18, 18:44
Doesn't shorter notice also indicate that she is not so much of a star after all? Just saying..
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Like +8 Object -2 Kadwa Such 04 Jun 18, 21:02  interesting
Most of the so called "stars" are chunnu munnus who bask in reflected glory of their firm. You proof read a few facility agreements and brand yourself as a "Finance Lawyer." You proof read a few construction/EPC agreements and brand yourself as a specialist in "Infrastructure Law." Do little due diligence and you magically transform into an "M&A Expert."

Chances are that most of them don't know the subject their claim to specialize in from their back side.
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Like +7 Object -3 AVK fan 05 Jun 18, 00:57
She started the competition practice in Khaitan and has been a trusted adviser for her clients..on her own..without any a**licking..that’s what a star’s not about some 50 under 50’s about hard work and integrity!
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Like +6 Object -0 KCO publications 04 Jun 18, 23:09  interesting
"Hit the ground running with exciting mandates..." Did she take the publication of KCO Ergo with her??
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Like +2 Object -1 Guest 05 Jun 18, 11:43
She is also the person who started publications initiative at Khaitan.
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Like +0 Object -0 Billable 05 Jun 18, 12:32
Non-Billable mate!
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Like +6 Object -2 Enoughhhhhhhhhhh 05 Jun 18, 13:31
Sometimes I feel lawyers are glorified too much. For Gods sake!they are not taking bullets on their chest fighting enemies or aliens or some unidentified animals. They are working according to the contract signed and GETTING PAID FOR IT!!!!!!!!!
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Like +0 Object -0 El Cid 05 Jun 18, 20:33
Kian, you're missing another big story covered by BB and I suggest you cover it.
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