This article is written by Shweta Rath, Team LawSikho.
Competition law in India is now emerging as one of the most niche and exciting practice areas. It is one of those few areas of law which is a perfect combination of research, enforcement litigation, and merger transactions. With the Corporate Affairs Secretary recently releasing the recommendation report prepared by the Competition Law Review Committee, competition law in India has also now expanded its growth to the digital sector.
Needless to say, the best exposure to the practice of this law comes from working for the firms which have developed a high-demand practice. Unlike other kinds of transactional laws, the competition circle is small but elite. Competition lawyers with a sound knowledge base and good work experience are quite well paid. Therefore, the competition within these firms remains cut-throat.
These competition law teams in various law firms do not follow the standard process of hiring in terms of lateral placement/campus placement. One of their essential criteria remains previous exposure to the nuances of the law, specifically competition law either through internships/research papers/ moot court competitions/LLM or work experience.
In fact, this is an interdisciplinary law, which amongst everything else also develops a knowledge base in the field of economics which opens the door to various other specialties.
Since law firms remain the top priority of students and professionals alike, we have listed down the firms which have an established practice of competition law.
CCI has only one branch situated in New Delhi and most of the transactional deals take place in Mumbai which is why most of the prominent law firm competition teams are based out of New Delhi and Mumbai. Some firms also have teams sitting in Bengaluru; however, it is prudent to apply for the teams based in the two major cities.
We have worked out a list of such law firms. Please note that this list is not based on any sort of hierarchy in terms of the quality of practice. If any of the below-mentioned information is incorrect, please reach out to us on firstname.lastname@example.org.
So let us get on the list. Please note that the numbering is in no way ranking these firms.
#1 Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas (SAM)
It’s a known fact that SAM is the topmost corporate law firm in the country. However, over the years, it has also maintained the topmost position in terms of its antitrust/competition law practice.
Clientele: One of the most significant deals handled by SAM happens to be that of Walmart-Flipkart merger which was a USD 16 billion deal. Walmart’s investment in this deal included $2 billion in new equity funding. SAM has also represented Matrimony.com Limited in the famous 2018 order of Google delivered by the CCI.
The key partners include Pallavi Shroff, Shweta Shroff Chopra, Aparna Mehra, and Naval Chopra. In addition to this, the firm has a significant number of partners for the competition teams.
SAM happens to have one of the biggest competition law teams which are divided between merger control work and litigation/enforcement work operating out of New Delhi and Mumbai.
How much their lawyers earn?: SAM follows a uniform remuneration system for their A0s (fresh joiners) across all verticals which is anywhere between 13-15L per annum including bonus which will vary.
#2 AZB & Partners
The competition law team of AZB & Partners is spearheaded by Mr. Samir Gandhi with Mr. Rahul Rai as counsel and other key partners namely Ms. Aditi Gopalakrishnan, Ms. Hemangini Dadwal and Mr. Bharat Budholia who manage the team in New Delhi and Mumbai offices.
Clientele: It represented Google in the case of Matrimony.com Limited and Anr v. Google before the CCI. When the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code was at its nascent stages, AZB’s team was involved with Tata Steel’s acquisition of Bhushan Steel. Under the new green channel route which is a faster way of receiving CCI approvals for merger transactions, AZB acted for Muthoot Finance Limited for its acquisition of the IDBI Mutual Fund.
How much their lawyers earn?: In terms of remuneration, AZB also follows a uniform remuneration system for their A0s (fresh joiners) across all verticals which is anywhere between 13-15L per annum including bonus which will vary.
#3 Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas (CAM)
Under the new leadership of Ms. Avaantika Kakkar, the merger control expertise of CAM has undergone a massive change. Along with Mr. Anshuman Sakle as the partner, they regularly appear before the CCI on complex merger filings including Phase II applications for multinationals in sectors such as retail, FMCG, telecoms, e-commerce, pharmaceuticals, and energy. They operate out of their offices in New Delhi and Mumbai.
Clientele: Their most recent merger control transaction happens to be the divestment of Reliance Jio’s tower assets to Brookfield Infrastructure Partners Lp. CAM follows a differential remuneration system for its verticals.
How much their lawyers earn?: The competition vertical is on the higher side of the remuneration structure with A0s being paid anywhere between 13-15L per annum including bonus component.
The national practice head is Ms. Nisha Kaur Uberoi who along with Ms. Soumya Hariharan as a partner has defended INR 6300 crores cartelization claims imposed by the CCI in the famous cement cartel litigation which is currently before the Supreme Court.
Clientele: In the digital sector, Trilegal has also represented ANI Technologies Pvt. Ltd (OLA) in predatory pricing and cartel claims and is doing notable work in the area of big data vis-à-vis competition law. Trilegal represented both Schneider Electric and Temasek in the INR 14,000 crore sale of electrical and automation business by Larsen and Toubro which happens to be the first merger control Phase II transaction which was cleared by the CCI without any structural modifications. Team members are based out of New Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru offices.
How much their lawyers earn?: Trilegal follows a uniform remuneration system for their A0s (fresh joiners) across all verticals which is between 14-15L per annum including bonus component which will vary.
#5 Khaitan & Co.
This team happens to be one of the oldest competition law teams and has the presence of some of the first-generation competition lawyers. After the departure of Ms. Avaantika Kakkar, the team is now being headed by Mr. Sagardeep Rathi and Ms. Anisha Chand under the guidance of Mr. Manas Kumar Chaudhuri and Mr. Arshad (Paku) Khan. Mr. Rahul Singh has also been a critical addition to the team as he brings in massive research and scholarly experience having been an NLSIU associate professor and chair of the undergraduate council.
Clientele: In one of their most recent transactions, Khaitan advised TVS Capital Funds Limited, Faering Capital and A91 Emerging Fund for their investment in Go Digit General Insurance Limited. Team members are based out of New Delhi and Mumbai.
How much their lawyers earn?: In terms of remuneration, Khaitan and Co. are a little ahead of their tier 1 counterparts and also follow a uniform remuneration structure which is around 16L per annum including the bonus component which will vary.
#6 L&L Partners
L&L partners also happen to have one of the oldest teams with Mr. G.R Bhatia spearheading it. Other partners include Mr. Abdullah Hussain, Ms. Kanika Chaudhary Nayar, and Partner Designate Mr. Rudresh Singh.
Clientele: In its recent transaction, L&L advised ArcelorMittal and Nippon Steel’s $7 billion acquisition of Essar Steel India which was one of the biggest acquisitions in the steel sector. L&L Partners competition team has always been known for its strong clientele. The team is primarily based out of New Delhi.
How much their lawyers earn?: L&L Partners follows a differential pricing structure for its competition team and considers various factors like prior work experience and LLM qualification to decide the remuneration structure. However, fresh joinees can safely expect to earn anything above INR 70K per month!
#7 Jyoti Sagar Associates
This team is mostly based out of Gurgaon, New Delhi. Practice leader Amitabh Kumar retired in October 2019 after which the team is now being headed by Mr. Vaibhav Choukse.
Clientele: Recent transactions include Temasek/ IndiaIdeas.com (2019) and Teleperformance/ Intelenet (2018). Their team has a strong foothold on the enforcement side as they are currently defending various Japanese auto-parts manufacturers, male contraceptive manufacturers and a paper manufacturer in cartel inquiries before the CCI.
How much their lawyers earn?: Jyoti Sagar Associates also follows a differential remuneration system and pays anywhere between INR 8-12L per annum.
#8 Talwar Thakore & Associates
This firm is primarily a corporate and transactional law firm but it also has an extremely established merger control practice. With the departure of Mr. Vinod Dhall, the team is now being led by Mr. P Ram Kumar. They are known to be very selective with their hiring. Therefore, adequate knowledge and experience in merger control law are extremely essential to get hired. Their competition team is based out of New Delhi.
Clientele: On their enforcement side they have very recently defended Great Eastern Energy Corporation Limited in a writ petition filed against them in the Delhi High Court pursuant to CCI’s final order of exonerating them for abuse of dominance allegations.
How much their lawyers earn?: For a tier 2 firm, they are in a high paying bracket with a starting remuneration of anywhere between INR 10-15 Lakhs per annum.
#9 Chandhiok & Mahajan, Associates and Solicitors (C&M)
On the tier 2 level, C&M is currently one of the fastest-growing firms headed by Mr. Karan Singh Chandhiok who was earlier the competition practice head of L&L Partners. Prior to that he was working with Allen & Overy in the London office and therefore has significant exposure to both domestic and international competition law. It is based out of New Delhi and is a very promising option for fresh law graduates who also want to venture into dispute resolution which is another significant practice area of the firm.
Clientele: They are considered the pioneers in the area of leniency litigation and acted on behalf of Panasonic in obtaining 100% immunity in leniency hearings relating to the flashlight battery cartel case. They also represented Hyundai Motor India in an appeal before the NCLAT of a $14m vertical restraints fine imposed by the CCI and are currently assisting Intel with investigations into abuse of dominance allegations.
How much their lawyers earn?: Being upcoming litigation and corporate firm, freshers begin a remuneration structure which is anywhere between 35-50K per annum depending upon the prior work experience and knowledge base. The hike in terms of work performance is considered to be very good.
#10 Gaggar and Partners
Under the leadership of Mr. Vaibhav Gaggar, this firm has developed a robust competition practice and is also on the panel of lawyers for the CCI.
Clientele: The team is based out of New Delhi and it has represented the CCI before the NCLAT/COMPAT and the Supreme Court in extremely high stake litigations like the Cement Cartel Case and defends constitutional challenges to the competition regime. On the other side, the firm has represented Fastway Transmission Private Limited, Bellaire Association, B.M. Thakkar & Co., Haicheng Vivo Mobile, etc. The key members are Mr. Nitish Sharma, Ms. Neha Mishra and Ms. Aayushi Sharma. This is an excellent place to work to understand how competition enforcement takes place on behalf of both sides.
How much their lawyers earn?: Gaggar and Partners is mostly a litigation firm but its competition team members are quite well placed and the remuneration structure for freshers is anywhere between 35k-45K. They will consider other factors before finalising on a remuneration structure and the hike in terms of work performance is also considered to be very good.
#11 Pathak & Associates
This firm is also considered to have one of the first-generation competition law team which is headed by Mr. Anand Pathak.
Clientele: The firm’s clients include Amazon, when it bought Aditya Birla Group’s food and grocery retail chain More, along with Samara Capital. It is based out of New Delhi and has very strong enforcement and merger control practice. Being a celebrated firm, their remuneration structure is also pretty good compared to litigation firms.
How much their lawyers earn?: Freshers can expect to earn anything between 50-60K as starting salary which can also be higher depending upon work experience and prior qualifications.
Apart from these firms, there are some notable practitioners to work under. Mr. Samar Bansal is one such practitioner in New Delhi who is also on the panel of the CCI. He has a sound knowledge of the subject and regularly represents the CCI before NCLAT, High Court and the Supreme Court. He is known to defend the CCI on matters pertaining to constitutionality, DG Powers etc. Very recently, he appeared in notable cases in the High Court namely Cadd Systems and Services Private Limited v. CCI and Cadila Health Care Limited v. CCI.
Additionally, Mr. Rahul Goel and Ms. Anu Monga after having left CAM have created a competition practice in IndusLaw, New Delhi and are growing this practice. Being a new vertical of IndusLaw, this has an extreme potential of aggressive growth. Mr. Abir Roy is also developing a competition practice in Sarvada Legal which has practice heads joining in from Economic Law Practice and Lakshmikumaran and Sridharan. They are currently representing Fastrack Ltd and Meru before the NCLAT in their proceedings against the CCI, Uber and Ola.
The above-mentioned law firms are the most sought-after practitioners with respect to competition practice. These firms engage in various kinds of competition law practice- enforcement/merger/advisories/advocacy. However, due to the quantum of workload and the small circle of competition lawyers, they prefer applicants to have a prior understanding of the law. This not only includes knowing about the legislation but also includes understanding provisions in a solution-oriented manner and know-how towards drafting basic documents pertaining to competition law.
If you follow our email regularly, you shall be knowing that we have launched a Certificate Course In Competition Law, Practice And Enforcement. This is an executive certificate course with 1 online live class per week, printed study materials at your disposal, doubt clearance within 24 hours and a lot of other benefits that you can find on the course page with details.
The course has been priced at INR 15,000, if you enroll until 30th January 2020. The price of the course will increase to INR 20,000 starting 1st February 2020.
Shoot us with your doubts by putting a comment below. Our experts will get back to you with a free consultation for your legal career.
Do not forget to check the Competition law course details on the page here.
Students of Lawsikho courses regularly produce writing assignments and work on practical exercises as a part of their coursework and develop themselves in real-life practical skill.