Allen & Overy reshuffles India leadership

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Left-Sheila Ahuja, Right-Pallavi Gopinath Aney
Left: Sheila Ahuja; Right: Pallavi Gopinath Aney

Allen & Overy rearranged its India leadership team on 25 May with the appointment of Sheila Ahuja and Pallavi Gopinath Aney as joint chairs for the country.

Ahuja, who has been leading the India arbitration practice for the firm, has extensive experience in other jurisdictions including Singapore, Hong Kong, England and Wales, and Southeast Asia. Aney has led the India capital markets practice for Allen & Overy, advising clients on a wide range of debt, equity and liability management transactions in India and Southeast Asia.

“We view this as an opportunity to refresh our India strategy and further build out the very strong platform that we have. More immediately, we will be looking to strengthen existing relationships with the leading Indian law firms that we regularly work with, while also fostering new relationships with firms that offer high quality and specialist practices,” said Ahuja and Aney in a joint response to queries from Asia Business Law Journal.

Aney said the firm has had the busiest 18 months on the transactional side, the crisis notwithstanding.

“The complexity and volume of the deals show that the market is buoyant and on an upward trajectory and so we will continue delivering our clients the highest quality of service to meet their needs,” she said.

Ahuja said, there continues to be a rise in the number of Indian and foreign-seated arbitration proceedings, with the latter now being a permissible choice even if all the parties involved are Indian.

“We are continuing to see contentious issues of all varieties head to full-blown proceedings notwithstanding the pandemic,” she said. “So far as arbitration is concerned, there is a clear trend in favour of institutional arbitration for high stakes claims, which is a welcome change in the right direction. We are uniquely placed in Singapore which is a favoured seat of arbitration for clients in India.”

The elevation of the two Singapore-based lawyers follows the appointment of new joint managing partners for their Singapore office, Gautam Narasimhan and Tim Beech, on 1 May.

India-born Narasimhan is a banking partner focused on private equity and leveraged finance, structured finance and special situations in India, Indonesia, Vietnam and Singapore. Beech is the head of the firm’s Asia-Pacific corporate trust and agency team, and a partner in the Singapore debt capital markets group.

Meanwhile, the law firm’s former head of India practice, Sanjeev Dhuna in London, who had been with Allen & Overy for 26 years, joined Shearman & Sterling in April. Dhuna joined Shearman as a leveraged finance partner in the finance group in London and will lead the team in Europe alongside Ward McKimm, the Europe regional managing partner and Europe, Middle East and Africa finance team leader.

Ahuja, Aney, Narasimhan and also Dhuna were identified among the top India-focused lawyers in India Business Law Journal’s International A-List 2021.

A&O has an India group comprising more than 100 partners and associates across its international network of offices, particularly in London, Singapore, Hong Kong and Dubai. The firm also has a graduate recruitment programme in India, which recruits home-grown lawyers that have connections with clients and to the Indian market to work in A&O’s global offices.