law firms in India

In this article, Aparna Ravulavaru pursuing MA in Business Law from NUJS, Kolkata, discusses Ten most expensive law firms in India and what makes them stand out.

Definition and Nature of a Law Firm

A law firm is typically a business entity set up as a sole proprietorship concern or as a partnership by a group of lawyers. These lawyers offer their expertise to clients under one firm name.

The lawyers can be Equity Partners or Nonequity Partners, i.e. Associates or Senior Associates of a law firm. It takes three to four years to move from the Associate level to Senior Associate degree in a typical Law Firm in India. With another 4 to 5 years of professional experience, the Senior Associate can become a Partner of the Law Firm. In respect of most of the Indian Law Firms, the Junior Partners even with 7 to 12 years of experience work on a salary basis and do not have an ownership stake in the company. Equity Partners are the real owners of the company who share the profits of the Law Firms and are usually more senior members of the enterprise with known large client basis.

Most Law Firms engage outside lawyers as consultants to the company on an exclusive retainer-ship arrangement with or without into contract that contain provisions relating to exclusivity, non-competition, confidentiality, and non-solicitation.

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Large Law Firms, also known as “full-service” firms, can range in size from several dozens of lawyers and employees to several thousands of employees including lawyers, paralegals, administrative staff, human resource specialists, librarians and other officials – and can exist in multiple cities, states, and even countries.

Services Rendered by a Law Firm

A Law Firm works for the interests of Corporate houses that include companies, business and financial enterprises, banks, financial institutions, private equity funds, government bodies, educational and charitable trusts, cultural institutions, estates, and trusts. These are from within the country and overseas and for the interests of individuals too, usually of high net worth.

Larger Law Firms may be composed of several specialized practice groups, allowing the firm to diversify their client base and market, and to offer a variety of services to their customers.

The practice areas of a typically large Law Firm are:

  1. General Corporate: Mergers and Acquisitions, Joint Ventures, Private Equity and Business
  2. Banking and Finance: Banking documentation to securitization, factoring, setting up payment banks, syndicated loans, structured finance, acquisition finance, and mortgage-backed securities, guarantee structures, equipment financing, non-convertible debentures, external commercial borrowings, and working capital loans.
  3. Financial markets: Legal and regulatory advice on IPOs, FPOs, rights issues, QIPs, ADRs, GDRs, IDRs, AIM listings, on the Equity side; issuance and restructuring of FCCBs, non-convertible bonds, unlisted infrastructure bonds, and medium-term note programs on the Debt Capital Markets side.
  4. Competition Law: Steering clients through their largest transactions, complex investigations, and high-stakes litigation.
  5. Dispute Resolution: Domestic and international arbitrations, commercial, corporate and regulatory disputes in various courts, tribunals, forums, administrative authorities and regulators in India.
  6. Intellectual Property Rights: Covers patents, trademarks, copyrights and designs and other allied laws, from conceptualization to enforcement and from negotiations to creation of innovative corporate structures based on intellectual property
  7. Projects and Project Finance: Advice to the Clients of Developers, contractors, investors and lenders on various infrastructure projects in areas such as Power, Oil, and Gas, Nuclear Energy, Ports, Roads, and Mining. Advice on regulatory aspects, contractual issues and government tendering aspects associated with such large scale projects.
  8. Tax related: Direct and indirect tax services (customs duty, central excise, service tax, value added tax, central sales tax, state excise duty) ranging from tax planning, advisory, implementation, documentation, representation and litigation support.
  9. Venture Capital: Mostly stage financings.
  10. Other Practice Areas and Industry Expertise: Bankruptcy and Insolvency, Consumer Protection and Product Liability, Corporate/Commercial Advisory, Defense, E-commerce, Employment, Environment and Climate Change, E-trade and Outsourcing, Bribery Investigations, Infrastructure, Internet Governance. Additionally Mining and Energy, Pro bono, Philanthropy and Trusts, Real Estate and Trusts, Regulatory and Public Policy, Retail, Taxation, Trade Law and White Collar Crime.
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Success Mantra of a Law Firm

Any good law firm works on the following six principles:

Core Values: A written set of core values or standards that provide clear, firm-wide expectations regarding individual contributions and mutual accountability are needed to deal fairly with people coupled with profitability in the legal business. The typical Law Firm core values can be ownership – responsibility for profit and the success of the company. Investment, engagement, loyalty, communication; 2.Legacy – a commitment to leave the firm for better. Commitment to the long-term health and viability of the enterprise; 3.Respect – for people and their development; 4. Service – to clients and each other; 5.Excellence – striving for the highest quality and professionalism in everything one does; 6.Integrity and honesty – character counts. Reliability, trustworthiness, transparency. A commitment to fairness, honor, and truth; 7.Teamwork – a collaborative approach among lawyers and staff. Available, approachable, generous with one’s time, sharing work, sending work to the right place in the firm. Cooperation; 8. Contribution – a personal commitment to earn one’s spot on the roster each year; and 9.Accountability – agreeing to be bound by the reasonable standards and expectations articulated in the core values.

The Core values in a Law Firm ensures functional advantages of the parameters of Interdependent, Collaborative, Coordinated, Broad, general communication, Trusting & Firm first; Shared Agenda.

Client Centric: Each client matters. In the issue of delivery of services, a good Law firm gives paramount importance to the unique needs, preferences & priorities and the confidentiality of the clients. Clients have a choice from the menu of the Law Firm on cost containment, efficiency enhancement, and service alternatives. The customer is every penny valued, and the Law Firm accordingly renders services.

The Law Firm provides the clients with workgroup list with contact details of the Associates working on the project with a point person along with a proposed timeline, To make the Law Firm functionaries accessible to the clients. To ensure personal touch regarding client working with the same associate who has a thorough understanding of the customer’s organization.  The Law Firm’s focus is to build long-term relationships for the growth, success and customer satisfaction.

Best Human Resources: A successful Law Firm shall have a proper mix of people with experience and enthusiasm that make up the Law Firm. The people are expected to be much more diverse in their preparation, skills, and range of duties. The legal and non-legal staff that gets selected are trained and nurtured to organizational culture, vision and shared the mission of the Law Firm to become a talented, accountable and stable team. The Law Firm shall also have a fundamental policy of growth of its members and associates.

The quality of Service: Successful Law Firms meet both technical quality (how good is the work?) and service quality (did the client have a positive experience dealing with the firm?) through their efficient work.

Use of Technology: A good Law Firm adopts changing technology that enables increasing portions of legal work to be done better, faster, and more cost-effectively. A unified and shared knowledge system for the employees is the output and outcome of the adoption of such technology.

Cost management and Output pricing: Consolidation of infrastructure and basic legal services in a Law Firm ensures low-cost service to clients; also a good Law Firm charges its customers based on the benefit conferred, not the time and effort it spent to confer it.

Evaluation of Best/Top Law Firms

The focus can be on the bench strength of the team and the consistency of quality of the individuals within the team to improve the performance of a Law Firm. Assessment will cover the complete practice in the Law Firm’s field. Law Firm usually covers these areas in their evaluation:
  • Powerful technical ability available foremost complex and innovative work
  • Most prestigious clients
  • Individuals with the contacts at, and credibility with, the top clients
  • In-depth capability beyond Star partners
  • Capacity for the biggest transactions/cases
  • Market share
  • Historical track record on top deals/cases
  • Clear investment for the future in a particular practice area
  • Progress made with acquiring new clients/ market share
  • Strength in associated areas – e.g., can an M&A department undertake competition work to an equal standard?
  • Reputation for handling complex, innovative deals
  • Capacity to handle all client requirements in an area – e.g., international offices/connections
  • Commitment to IT and the use of IT to improve client services
  • Perception in the market

Rankings of Best Law Firms in India

Discussed below is the five relevant fields in which the Indian Best Law Firms have established niches

  • By the Size of the Law firms, the first ten Top Ranked Law Firms in India are as below:
Rank in 2016 Firm Yr. of establishment Office Locations Partners Associates Total No. of Lawyers Supporting staff Other Professionals
1 Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas (Split into Cyril & Shardul A M & Co. in 2015) 1917 Delhi; Mumbai; Ahmedabad; Bengaluru; Chennai; Hyderabad; Kolkata; Gurgaon 88 509 601 (34 Ranked) 261 57
2 Khaitan & Co 1911 Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Bengaluru 104 381 485 (21 Ranked) 150 20
3 AZB & Partners 2004 Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore,Pune, Gurgaon 65 310 375 (14 Ranked) 150 N/A
4 Luthra & Luthra 1989 Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Hyderabad 61 275 336 65 N/A
5 J.Sagar Associates 1991 Delhi, Mumbai, Gurgaon, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru 84 106 302 (19 Ranked) 57 59
6 Trilegal 2000 Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Hyderabad 36 185 221 (16 Ranked) 91 13
7 Lakshmikumaran & Sridharan N/A Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad 39 171 210 N/A N/A
8 Desai & Diwanji 1930 Mumbai, Delhi 28 162 190 N/A N/A
9 Kochhar & Co     42 130 172 N/A N/A
10 Fox Mandal & Co     36 120 156 N/A N/A
11 Economic Law Practice 2001 Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmadabad, Pune, Bengaluru 28 91 119 35 6
12 S & R Associates 2005 Delhi, Mumbai 7 42 15 N/A N/A
13 Talwar Thakore & Associates 2007 Mumbai, Delhi 4 12 23 10 1

Source: Asia Legal Business.

  • Based on Law Firms’ Market Profile, including the number of spontaneous mentions and recommendations the firm received in independent client interviews and the Average Satisfaction Score from Firms’ clients, the Top Ten Ranked Law Firms are:
Rank Company Name RSG Profile Score

RSG Client

Satisfaction Score


Amarchand & Mangaldas & Suresh A Shroff & Co.

(Split into Shardul & Cyril A S 2015)

61 8.7
2 AZB & Partners 59 8.5
3 Khaitan & Co 55 8.7
4 J Sagar Associates 41 8.7
5 Luthra & Luthra Law Offices 30 8.2
6 Trilegal 19 8.5
7 S&R Associates 8 8.9
8 Economic Laws Practice 5 9.0
9 Desai & Diwanji 12 8.5
10 Talwar Thakore & Associates 9 8.8

(C )The following represents the Practice Areas of the Top Ten Law Firms in India and the share of their Domestic & Foreign Business

Rank Law Firm Practice Areas Business Share (in %)
Domestic International
1 Amarchand & Mangaldas  (Split into Cyril & Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas Co. in 2015) Mergers & Acquisitions, JVs & Collaborations, Private Equity, Real Estate, Taxation, Insurance, Employment, Technology, Media & Telecom. 60 40
2 AZB & Partners Pharmaceuticals & Biotechnology, Arbitration, Aviation, Banking & Finance, Competition/Anti-Trust, Corporate M&A, Litigation. Additionally Micro-Finance, Derivatives, IP, Media & Entertainment, IT & Business Process Outsourcing, Employment, Insurance, 50 50
3 Khaitan & Co Projects & Infrastructure, Arbitration, Aviation, Banking & Finance, Capital Markets, Competition/Anti-Trust, Corporate M&A, Litigation. Private Equity.. 55 45
4 J Sagar Associates Corporate M&A, Arbitration, Banking & Finance, Capital Markets, Competition/Anti-Trust,. Litigation, Projects & Infrastructure. 40 60
5 Luthra & Luthra Law Offices Private Equity, Arbitration, Aviation, Banking & Finance, Capital Markets, Competition/Anti-Trust. Corporate M&A, Litigation, Projects & Infrastructure. 30 70
6 Trilegal Restructuring, IP, TMT, Labour & Employment, White-Collar Crime, Insurance, Healthcare & Pharmaceutical, Arbitration, Aviation, Banking & Finance, Capital Markets, Competition/Anti-Trust, Corporate M&A, Litigation. 35 65
7 S&R Associates Full Service 20 80
8 Economic Laws Practice Arbitration, Banking & Finance, Capital Markets. Competition/Anti-Trust, Corporate M&A. Litigation, Hospitality, International Trade & Customs, TMT 40 60
9 Desai & Diwanji Corporate, M&A, Projects. Private Equity, Capital Markets, Litigation 40 60
10 Talwar Thakore & Associates Banking & Finance, Capital Markets, Competition/Anti-Trust, Private Equity, Projects & Infrastructure, Financial Regulatory 40 60

Source: RSG Summary, 2015

Turnovers at India’s top 50 corporate law firms range from $500,000(~Rs20 crores) to $40m (~Rs 260.0 crores) with aggregate revenues of all companies amounting to $350m (~Rs.2275.0 crores), estimated an analyst report on the Indian legal industry.

Around 15 Corporate Law Firms in India have annual revenues more than $15m (~Rs.97.5 crores), according to the 2010 India report by legal consultancy RSG India, while the largest Indian Law Firm has generated around $40m (~Rs.260.0crores)in turnover.

There are no figures available for the actual revenues and profits earned by each of the Top Law Firms. However the figures available on Deals contracted during the first three-quarters of 2016 by the Top Ten Law firms is an indication of the profit range these companies might have been in – more the Deal value and the Deal Counts, more the profits involved. These figures are reported to be an increase of 36.2% for the whole of 2015, with one full quarter’s activity yet to be considered.

1 Rank Firm

Deal Value

 (in $ billion)

Deal Count
1 AZB & Partners 15.3 43
2 Khaitan & Co 18.7 42
3 Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas 13.1 36
4 Trilegal 1.4 27
5 Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas 5.6 26
6 JSA 8.7 20
7 Desai & Diwanji 0.6 16
8 Veritas Legal 1.2 14
9 HSA Advocates 0.2 14
10 Luthra & Luthra 0.8 13

The remuneration is paid by the Law Firms to its Lawyers at different levels is also an indication (indirect) of the earning spectrum of the Law Firms concerned. Below are the remuneration figures paid to their Partners, Senior Associate & Associate Level Lawyers for the year 2012.

Note: PQ1 to PQ5 represent the Entry Level Associate to Progressive level & Senior Level Associate; PQ6 & PQ7 represent Non-Equity or Equity Partner

Source: Legally India’s 2012’s salary survey (graphic via Mint)

Sustainability of Law Firms

The real viability of Law Firms is their willingness to develop and implement strategic plans to improve their cohesiveness, performance, and profitability.

The following long-term trends will influence the strategic objectives of the Law Firms concerned.

  1. The Economy Is Globalizing
  2. Technology Is Expanding/Improving at Breakneck Speed
  3. Clients have become more demanding
  4. Aggressive Competition
  5. Big Law Is Getting Bigger
  6. Record Level of “Merger & Acquisition” Activity
  7. Successful Law Firms Run More Like Businesses

The Strategic Plan encompasses the following

  1. Vision & Mission Statement: A Law Firm’s vision and mission should describe what the firm aspires to do throughout the next five years. It represents the big picture direction the firm is taking.
  2. A Limited Number of Primary Goals: The Law Firm has to identify small number (three or four) goals that give meaning to its Primary goals become the focal points for the rest of the strategy — identifying those few things that will enable the firm to maintain a solid competitive position and distinguish itself in the marketplace.
  3. Resource-Allocating Strategies: A good strategic plan allocates the necessary resources to achieve the company’s goals. Implementing the plan, the Law Firm has to invest considerably in its non-billable time. It should also establish a system that ensures that firm
    reward lawyers for the time that they invest in the company’s future.
  4. Objectives and Metrics to Track Progress: Defining key metrics of success is critical to ensure that the Law Firm’s efforts are on track.
  5. Financial metrics are critical (g., revenue and profitability).
  6. It is important to also measure the depth, breadth, and strength of client relationships; to monitor progress vis-à-vis people-oriented strategies, and to measure performance in operational and other non-financial areas.

A Brief Description of Few Top Most Law Firms in India

 Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas & Co.

The firm consists of 6 partners and 50 other qualified lawyers. Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas, headed by Cyril Shroff, and Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co, led by Shardul Shroff, have been formed as two separate, nationwide firms following the dissolution of Amarchand & Mangaldas & Suresh A Shroff & Co.

Work highlights Advised HDFC Bank on its INR 98.79 billion concurrent qualified institutional placement (QIP) and American depositary receipt issuance.

Acted as sole legal counsel to the founders of Infosys in the USD1.05 billion sell-down of their aggregate stake through block trade.

Acted for YES Bank in its USD497.4 million QIP.

Significant clients International Finance Corporation, Greenko Group, Bank of India, Citigroup Global Markets, JSW Steel.

AZB & Partners

They have two partners. They have a well-regarded practice with depth of expertise regarding both debt and equity work, including IPOs, notes offerings and high-yield bond matters. Clients include major corporate issuers and international financial institutions.

Luthra & Luthra Law Firm

The firm consists of 4 partners and 14 other qualified lawyers.

 They are a highly regarded team handling capital markets work for a range of banks and funds from the firm’s New Delhi and Mumbai offices. Particularly well known for equity capital markets matters, acting on QIPs and IPOs. Also adept at handling debt work.

Work highlights Acted for the placement agents in the USD 497 million QIP of YES Bank.

Assisted the Department of Disinvestment in the creation of a central public sector enterprise exchange traded fund through the sale of shares and listings of units, a transaction worth approximately USD500 million.

Provided Indian counsel to the broker, Goldman Sachs, on Avantha Holdings’ USD162 million sale of equity shares in Crompton Greaves.

Significant clients Goldman Sachs, Citi, Essel Group, Catholic Syrian Bank, ICICI Securities.

Khaitan & Co

 The law firm consists of 7 partners and 20 other qualified lawyers

The law firm is known for its highly experienced team with regular involvement in significant equity issuances, including IPOs and QIPs. Also, handles bond issuances and private placements of debt securities. It maintains an enviable client roster, including domestic issues and major underwriters.

Work highlights Represented the Ministry of Coal, Government of India, on the USD3.69 billion sale of equity shares in Coal India.

Provided Indian law counsel to Inox Wind in its INR 10,205.34 million IPO.


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References and Bibliography

  1. Types of Law Firms – FindLaw, (accessed June 22, 2017).
  2. Establishing Core Values in Your Law Firm, Eric Seeger, (accessed June 22, 2017).
  3. Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co. – Lex Mundi: The World’s, (accessed June 22, 2017).
  4. Greenberg Traurig Receives “Top-Tier” Real Estate Ranking, (accessed June 22, 2017).
  5. The Legal 500 – How do you rank firms/ sets?, (accessed June 22, 2017).
  6. Desai&Diwanji Practice Areas |, (accessed June 22, 2017).
  7. Legally India – News for Lawyers, (accessed June 22, 2017).
  8. STRATEGIC PLANNING – Managing Partner Forum, (accessed June 22, 2017).
  9. About | Khaitan, (accessed June 22, 2017).
  10. Core Values EAS – Altman Weil, (accessed June 22, 2017).
  11. Characteristics of Successful Law Firms, (accessed June 22, 2017).



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