Cyril Shroff wants his new firm to be the largest from day one. He has a plan ready after mediation with brother Shardul that led to the split of India's largest law firm, Amarchand & Mangaldas & Suresh A Shroff & Co. The managing partner of upcoming Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas explains his strategy to Abhineet Kumar. Excerpts:
Is there any baggage as you start a firm?
It is a clean slate now. Whatever has happened will change the legal sector. It is in some sense a disruptive event, as there is one more top firm in the market. The lead between us and whoever is second is going to be quite substantial.
Where does your firm rank after the split?
We have a legacy of 475 lawyers from Mumbai and the south offices that I was in charge of at Amarchand & Mangaldas. We have hired 92 lawyers and 20 more are on their way. By June 1, we should be a 580-lawyer firm, the largest in the country.
We will start our firm on Monday under the name Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas. The old firm will dissolve on Saturday, along with its logo. We will unveil our logo in about a month.
We are now going to compete with everybody, not only the other part of Amarchand. I expect that for several transactions we will be on opposite sides. While mediation was on, recruitment was continuing in anticipation since mid-December.
How will clients be distributed among the two firms?
Existing matters that are at both offices will continue with those offices, but clients can always change if they want. As far as new clients are concerned, it is free competition. One can do whatever one likes. And the reality is clients make their own decisions. They are not like property that we can exchange between us.
These are relationships of trust.
The Mumbai office you are retaining has its strength in mergers and acquisitions. What capabilities do you need to build now?
Our strengths in the Mumbai office are much more than M&A. We are very strong in capital markets, competition law, merger control filings, financial services regulatory practices, projects and banking. So it is quite a wide practice.
The strategy for our new office in Delhi will be to replicate what we do here as well as get into more areas. Delhi is litigation paradise because there are so many forums available there. The thrust in Delhi will be litigation, competition law, specialities like pharmaceuticals, sports law and intellectual property law.
Are you considering inorganic growth?
By 2017 or 2018 we will be a 1,000-lawyer firm. I do not have comparative data for others, but I suspect Cyril Amarchand will be the largest from day one. We are not going for any big merger. We could acquire small to mid-size teams. We are not going for any disruptive merger, it is too difficult to handle.
As a new firm starting so big how do you ensure governance?
As we thought of the future, we thought about our strategy and what would be the right governance model. To start with, we planned for 10 years and broke it up in three phases. In the first five years our focus is on the Indian market, which includes foreign and Indian clients, but delivering service in India. After that, we can take a decision on international offices, but we will take that decision in the fifth year.
In the first five years we need to be very swift footed, so the governance would be a single-leader model, which is me as the firm's managing partner. But I have spread governance mechanisms to a number of committees involving several other partners.
In the second phase of three years we will move to a governing council model, like a board of directors, which will be more broad-based as it will involve people from outside. In phase three we will think if we need to have international offices.
The government is considering liberalisation in legal practices. Are you look at tying up with foreign firms?
Irrespective of whether the market opens up or not we will remain independent. We have always been very proud of the fact that we are an independent firm and we are going to stay that way. We do not want to tie up.
What are the challenges you foresee?
The challenge is going to be cultural. A lot of initial expansions are going to be lateral hires. They bring experience and fresh DNA into our structure. The challenge will be to manage so many cultures.