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This article, like many others, was first published exclusively for long-term supporters, 3 hours before everyone else got to read it.

Phoenix closes Chennai office as partner Saipillai, litigator Joseph start Calibre Legal

Shadaan Saipillai, Arun Joseph set up Calibre Legal, looking to shake up Chennai mid-market
Shadaan Saipillai, Arun Joseph set up Calibre Legal, looking to shake up Chennai mid-market

Phoenix Legal Chennai head and partner Shadaan Mohammed Saipillai and tax litigator Arun Kurian Joseph have together set up local law firm Calibre Legal; Phoenix will shut shop in the city.

Calibre Legal is opening its doors with a total of 5 fee-earners, which includes the 2 partners. Saipillai explained that he would primarily focus on VC, corporate, commercial and real estate work, while Joseph was a tax specialist who would also handle litigation.

The firm would also target some private equity funds and high net worth individuals.

“Yes there are a lot of large firms already, but the Chennai market is very unique,” explained Saipillai. “You have to be very innovative with the pricing and the fee structure generally.”

“Typically the larger firms struggle a little bit to to get it right,” he added.

Phoenix Legal, meanwhile, will be closing its Chennai outpost. The firm commented: “We have decided to re-think our Chennai plans and to close our Chennai office for the time being. We will continue to service our clients from our existing offices in New Delhi and Mumbai.”

Phoenix in its statement wished Saipillai “the best with his new venture” and added that the firm looked forward “to working with Shadaan in his new role”.

The Calibre co-founder, in turn, added that it had been a “fantastic” experience to work with the Phoenix partners.

Saipillai had been heading Phoenix’ Chennai office since 2017. Before that, he had spent the majority of his career from 2002 at Kochhar & Co, where he was partner when leaving.

He is a 2001 graduate of Tamil Nadu Doctor Ambedkar Law University, with a 2011 LLM from Queen Mary University in London and a solicitors qualification to practise law in England.

Joseph is a graduate of the University of Madras who has been practising for 16 years. He specialises in litigation and direct and indirect taxation, and between 2008 and 2017, was standing counsel for the income tax department in Chennai.

In respect of Calibre’s strategy, Saipillai said that even when targeting the mid-market it should be a long-term endeavour with the correct balance of pricing, while also offering good client service. “You can’t just quote the hourly rates, you need to wait it out.

“It’s a test match kind of a mind set you need to have.”

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