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Space for growth's sake / Issue 13

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Luthra & Luthra has called the bottom of the slump, painting a longer term picture of where the law firm market as a whole may be headed.

It is no secret that transactional India is still under-lawyered – one only needs to witness the dominance of the handful of law firms acting on most big ticket deals.

In the boom years one of the biggest problems popular law firms faced was staffing their deals adequately. If anecdotes are to be believed, many failed and client service levels occasionally suffered.

Although utilisation levels still have room to grow these days, Luthra & Luthra now seems happy to call the bottom of the market, indulging in a hiring spree of six lawyers and 17 law school students in recent weeks.

"Lots of people have been hired in the last few months," explains the firm's senior partner Mohit Saraf. "Today we're not in a position to do justice to the work and take on a number of transactions because we still have a bandwidth issue."

The remedy is ambitious: the firm hopes to grow from its present size of around 175 lawyers to 300 within the next 18 months. A new office-floor has already been taken on in Delhi and the firm is currently negotiating to lease new properties in its other locations.

In Mumbai Luthra & Luthra wants to expand from around 35 lawyers to up to 90 and in Bangalore from a currently tiny presence to 25 lawyers.

Other firms have similar problems and ambitions and several have told Legally India that they are looking to at least double their headcounts in the coming years.

And if the existing legal centres were ever to become over-lawyered, Chennai and Hyderabad would become the new frontier where all but a few national law firms are invisible.

Wadia Ghandy has now opened up shop in Chennai and appears happy and confident there, albeit still small.

If those cities continue booming at the rates lawyers are expecting, there will be plenty of space for them to grow into.

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In other news the much maligned Press Notes 2 and 4 will stay as they are, if the Indian daily Business Standard is to be believed. But was everyone surprised?

It is understood that finance is about to get a whole lot more structured this year, particularly if market sources and this massive deal are any indication.

And in a surprising move following months of wranglings in the public eye, Supreme Court judges have now volunteered to disclose their assets in the name of greater transparency. At least for the time being.

Finally, if you know social entrepreneurs looking to connect projects to the legal community, please get them to contact us directly. LegallyIndia.com is donating online advertising to promote innovation.

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