The split in the country's largest corporate law firm, Amarchand & Mangaldas & Suresh A Shroff & Co, has set off a war for talent among law firms.
"We have not seen so much movement in the industry in the last five years. The split has galvanised the market, presenting opportunities for aspiring and performing lawyers," said Bithika Anand, founder and chief executive officer of Legal League Consulting, which advises law firms on management.
As the two managing partners of Amarchand Mangaldas, Shardul and Cyril Shroff, try to expand their practice in key cities, they are ramping up headcount daily. The mediation committee set up at the Bombay High Court to resolve an ownership dispute between the two brothers is expected to close on Wednesday, formally announcing the split of the 97-year-old law firm.
"Our vision is to build a 1,000-people firm," said Vandana Shroff, partner at Amarchand Mangaldas and wife of Cyril Shroff.
Amarchand Mangaldas has 655 lawyers on its rolls, according to the RSG-India Report for 2015. After the split, both firms would look at increasing headcount two to three times, industry players said.
"We have seen packages at the entry level being offered at a premium of around 15 per cent to last year," said Rishabh Chopra, leader of the search practice for the Delhi-NCR region at Vahura, a legal recruitment firm.
Increments for 2015 are likely to range between 20 and 30 per cent for top performers. Those with average performance were expected to get raises of 10-15 per cent, human resources experts said.
Faced with poaching, Khaitan & Co handed out 81 promotions this year and hired 31 lawyers from campus. The 364-lawyer firm has expanded its list of partners to 97, 62 of them equity partners. "The average growth in remuneration has been 20 per cent," said Rabindra Jhunjhunwala, partner, Khaitan & Co.
"We are looking at hiring 60-65 freshers in 2015 from law schools," said Vandana Shroff.
Law firms have taken to different strategies to keep their flock together or attract top talent. The Shardul Shroff-managed Delhi-headquartered Amarchand Mangaldas is looking at creating an extra layer for associate partners to accommodate aspirations. Another law firm, Nishith Desai Associates, has rolled out a fast-track programme to groom top talent.
"We want to expand the talent pool for prospective partners in the firm," said Nanda Majumdar, director, intellectual capital, Nishith Desai Associates.