When was the last time you read about more than 60 corporate lawyers making a big-bang transition from one corporate law firm to a competitor? That’s exactly what happened when DSK Legal announced the admission of 63 attorneys from L&L Partners in a variety of practise areas. Ashwin Mohan from Money Control managed to have a brief, exclusive conversation with Anand Desai, managing partner of DSK Legal, the man of the hour. Desai discussed several topics, including the reasons behind the mega-crossover, synergies, and the goals for DSK Legal 2.0.
Question: Taking on the team led by Bobby Chandhoke and Sudhir Sharma, which consists of 63 lawyers, 19 of whom are partners, is likely the greatest crossover deal in corporate law firms ever completed in one go. DSK Legal is taking a risky, aggressive action here. Please first explain how the discussions got started and what the major motivating forces were that brought the two sides together. Do you have any anecdotes you’d like to share?
Answer: Many thanks. DSK Legal has spent the last three and a half years growing. This staff, which is by far the largest, is the sixth to join us from other organisations during this time. In this time, we have increased from 110 lawyers to almost 250 lawyers (including partners).
It was unanticipated, for sure. We were contacted and asked if we would be interested in hiring Bobby and Sudhir when they left L&L with an unknown number of team members stationed in Delhi. This was quite intriguing because Bobby and Sudhir are reputable lawyers with a lot of experience, but it was a significant choice because this might have involved a sizable team and was taking place right after the team from Dua Associates joined us in Bangalore.
Sajit, our deputy managing partner, and Padmini, our CEO, both agreed that it was worth investigating, which is how the conversation got started. All of us felt that like-minded individuals were coming together, which augured very well. We believed the chemistry worked well in the very first meeting, and everything moved very quickly after that. Our Delhi office now has more lawyers than our Mumbai office for the first time in our company’s 21-year history! I should also point out that I have known Rajiv Luthra for a long time and that I told him I would talk to him before making a decision, which I did.
Question: In recent years, DSK Legal has placed a strong emphasis on litigation, and Bobby’s core team also comes from this industry. What prompted you to explore beyond litigation and consider non-litigation areas such as M&A, trade, IP, tax, and competition law? Was this done to diversify the revenue mix, and might we anticipate more hiring in these industries in the future?
Answer: Yes, our already strong litigation and arbitration capabilities have now greatly improved. Sincerity be damned, Bobby and Sudhir said they worked with those who wanted to join them. We didn’t even look at the teams’ practises. We recognised a great fit for each partner when I later learned about the practise areas in which the partners who wanted to join us worked.
Question: Mumbai is the company’s headquarters for DSK Legal. What future plans do you have for the Delhi office, which has been bolstered by the addition of the new team? In addition to the Hyderabad branch, which is a result of the integration process, are you also planning any new offices?
Answer: We’ll wait and see how things turn out. This was sudden and unexpected, as I previously stated. We currently have offices in Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, Bangalore, and Hyderabad, as well as one lawyer who is headquartered in Chennai. In Bangalore, Pune, Delhi, as well as for both of our locations in Mumbai, we are taking larger or additional office space. For the time being, there are no urgent plans to open an office in any other city.
Question: After this transaction, DSK Legal has more than 250 attorneys and 63 partners (including associate partners). What new, expanding fields and business segments do you anticipate for contemporary corporate law firms?
Answer: I think there will be rapid growth in the potential for private client work, healthcare, energy (including renewable energy), projects and project financing, restructuring and insolvency, and fintech, edtech, and related fields like the metaverse, blockchain, etc. Of course, conflicts work, and other industries like corporate/M&A/PE, real estate, IPR, media and entertainment, competition, and global trade will also continue to expand.
Question: More than 20 years have passed since you founded DSK Legal. What words of wisdom would you offer to young attorneys who wish to follow in your footsteps and launch their own businesses in 2001?
Answer: It’s great to see so many young lawyers starting their own firms. Currently, India is quite appealing to entrepreneurs in general. In India, unicorns are becoming more and more common in a variety of industries, notably those that use technology to distribute goods and services. I think there are a lot of opportunities in India if one has the desire to start a business, including everything that entails it, especially in specialised practise areas and regions where business and industry are expanding.