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Sizable matters / Issue 32

Record-breaking deals were inked this week to much merriment from law firms.

Wadia Ghandy will have been cheering for its client, which won the race in what is apparently the largest cash asset acquisition in Indian corporate history: Wadia's client GTL is buying network operator Aircel's tower business for almost $2bn. Amarchand Mangaldas is the happy advisor to Aircel but the suitor mandate could have gone to any of a number of firms, with a who's who of telecoms majors competing for the same assets. Not bad for early January.

(A second, unrelated reason to cheer at Wadia Ghandy: the firm won the ELP Cricket Masters Cup last weekend, persevering over tournament organiser and defending champions Economic Laws Practice in a dramatic final.)

Meanwhile, Khaitan & Co joined hands with an in-houser to close one of Mumbai's largest real estate deals of the past 12 months and Phoenix Legal has been busy at the tiny scale of things in a microfinance securitisation.

The other client that law firms will love in the coming year is the Government. India has 60 privatisations planned, and of the six disinvestments already announced a good cross-section of firms have picked up the mandates.

Things were more one-sided on the qualified institutional placement (QIP) front, as Amarchand was found on almost every other QIP of 2009-10's third quarter. Surely the firm and the other contenders in the league tables have to be reaching full capacity soon?

So, a sensible question to ask: between privatisations, QIPs, IPOs and scores of other fundraisings, are there even enough capital markets lawyers alive in India to make them all happen?

A similar legal advisory bottleneck was in the past openly acknowledged by a senior Indian minister in relation to the projects boom, so capital markets and projects lawyers are likely to remain in high demand.

The third area where there appears to be serious recruitment action is tax: continuing from its December tax partner hire, Jyoti Sagar Associates (JSA) has now taken on board a former Customs and Excise man.

Intent on becoming one-stop shops for companies' corporate needs, these days it is probably easier to count which law firms are not building tax practices.

Intellectual property, while occupying a somewhat uneasy place in many transactional law firms, could flourish very well in the boutique format. Start-up niche practice IP Gurus has brought on a Switzerland-based former in-houser who has a fair bit of experience in chasing IP infringers of luxury goods across the globe. The firm wants to replicate the methods in India.

On the other hand, less work for private clients could result if a Bangalore public interest litigation (PIL) is successful (which it very well might be, judging by the petitioner's track-record). The PIL alleges that multi-national steel mining companies are getting away with such bargainous concessions that it is almost Government-sponsored theft. The PIL prays for nationalisation and fair distribution of resource proceeds to citizens.

Something for everyone then, no matter what the size.

In Legally India's Mooting Premier League the competition could not possibly get more exciting. Nalsar Hyderabad has for the first time taken the sole top spot in our rankings next to NLS Bangalore. Bring it on.

Watch this week's Rainmaker video interview with the Attorney General and discuss why it may be best to do some litigation before consigning yourself to copy-paste desk-lawyering.

Legally India's blogosphere has hosted two excellent reader articles this week.

Wondering whether to do an LLM in the UK? Read on for the definitive answers of how, why and why not.

Also check out this opinion on the "infinite battle" in the infamous Ruchika Girhotra court case that is dominating India's headlines.

And is there something about the Bar Council that you were always afraid to ask? Well, now you can: India's Bar Councils are now officially subject to Right to Information requests.

Why don't you start your own blog or post your thoughts? We promise, it's fun and easy for any registered user!

And finally: two more Legally Drawn cartoons.

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