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Newsletter: Control / Issue 7

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It is hard to establish to what scale Indian law firms have laid off associates during the down-turn.

One thing is clear though: the domestic war for talent has begun to heat up again, especially as foreign firms have lost buying power after a tough year of retrenchments and falling profits.

Trilegal is one firm that is seizing the day. It has hit final-year law students with job offers six months earlier than before and Amarchand too is understood to have recruited from a national law school already.

The question is, how many graduates will be left for other firms after they are done? And can the recruitment cycle start any earlier than a few days into final-year monsoon semester?

Associates too are taking their careers into their own hands. Lack of depth at the more junior end is an oft-levelled charge against firms and it is no surprise that quality lateral hires will be welcomed with open arms, if only to pre-empt such charges.

After taking a couple of years to build her experience in-house at ICICI Bank, for example, one of Juris Corp's former senior associates has re-joined her old firm. And Kochhar & Co has taken a senior associate from Amarchand, by offering him a practice area that is "evergreen".

A place where associates do not feel welcome appears to be the Bar Council of India (BCI). Yesterday we published the BCI chairman SNP Sinha's response to our previous interview but according to comments, a number of law firm lawyers feel unrepresented.

Law firms are clearly not the BCI's primary interest - or its primary electorate for that matter. On the other hand, it is unlikely many of the powers-that-be within law firms have reasons to object to the BCI's apathy.

After all, which industry has ever begged to be policed by a stronger regulator?

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Despite losing the offical title of world's biggest, Clifford Chance has stayed close to Air India, helping the airline secure $1bn of much-needed financing.

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