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Too many foxes: Fox Mandal Cal distances self from Som & Delhi with newspaper ad due to conflict

Multiple Foxes stir trouble in WB henhouse
Multiple Foxes stir trouble in WB henhouse

A keen-eyed reader has brought to our notice that Fox & Mandal, Kolkata, has published an advertisement in the Kolkata-based Telegraph newspaper, stating that the venerable firm, “has no other branch in any part of the country”, especially not Fox Mandal:

Fox & Mandal is legally distinct and separate from any other firm of Advocates.

This notice is being issued to dispel confusion in media reports and otherwise about Fox & Mandal, Solicitors & Advocates.”

When contacted, a partner at the Kolkata firm confirmed that the advertisement was placed by it but declined to comment further.

However, reading between the lines and from what we’ve learned from market sources, the main reason for the notice was a conflict of interest that had been caused for Fox Kolkata’s government work, though that will require a brief tour of history.

Stone cold Fox

Readers may be forgiven for not having kept up with which Fox is which, since there are three firms with remarkably similar names that were not helped by a history of co- and re-branding.

There is the original true-blue Calcutta firm of Fox & Mandal, which was established in 1896 and has 5 partners and around 45 total fee-earners.

Fox Mandal & Associates is the Bangalore-headquartered firm headed by Shuva Mandal, with several offices also in Chennai and Hyderabad.

Then there is Fox Mandal & Co, which is the Delhi-based firm whose managing partner is Som Mandal.

At the end of the last decade, Som Mandal had expanded the brand - together with the Fox Kolkata and South India partnerships - with a short-lived merger with Bombay’s ancient solicitors firm Little & Co, creating FoxMandal Little, and expansion to London.

Famously, after a cash crunch in the firm resulted in the firm deferring salaries, that we had first reported way back in 2009, everything eventually ended in tears, as documented in our long-form analysis in Mint in 2011.

When we last reported about Fox Mandal Delhi, the firm was down to 4 non-family partners in 2011 after the majority had left.

Both Fox Cal and South India had begun extricating themselves from the ill-fated Delhi brand, always quick to clarify that they were separate partnerships and legal entities despite sharing a family heritage and branding (and despite still, to this day, having a joint website, which even more confusingly simply states Fox Mandal).

The requirement for the newspaper notice, however, was likely more practical.

Fox trap

Som tweets (though @FoxMandal is not a law firm)
Som tweets (though @FoxMandal is not a law firm)

We understand that it is Som Mandal's high-visibility engagement with and for the BJP that may have endangered some of Fox Kolkata's government work, since West Bengal is famously ruled by the staunchly anti-BJP Mamata Banerjee from the All India Trinamool Congress party.

We had reported in 2016, that Som Mandal ran for West Bengal assembly elections on a BJP ticket (but lost).

Now, more recently, in November 2017, Som Mandal was mentioned in newspapers for representing Trinamool defector Mukul Roy, who had joined the BJP, in a war of legal notices with the nephew of Mamata, Abhisek Banerjee.

Mandal reportedly wrote in his letter to Mamata's kin: “Not only is your client’s conclusion incorrect, baseless and contrary to facts, but your client has deliberately given the alleged meaning and purport to the statements made by our client during the November 10 rally for malafide reasons to suit your client’s convenience.”

That kind of thing probably made Fox & Mandal Kolkata's job in West Bengal more difficult, and hence, this newspaper notice.

It also brings to a close this history tour, since we've run out of puns to use in headings that are sly as a fox (or not).

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