India Business Law Journal reveals 50 up-and-coming lawyers who are making a name for themselves in the profession

In a year where leadership has never been a more crucial quality, India Business Law Journal has sought to identify India’s Future Legal Leaders – 50 young and dynamic lawyers who have caught the attention of clients for their dedication to the profession. Our Future Legal Leaders are lawyers who have either shown entrepreneurial spirit and started their own law firms, or those who are poised to climb the ranks in established firms. This article highlights the achievements of many of the 50 lawyers and includes testimony of some the clients and peers who nominated them.

To identify these up-and-coming lawyers, we turned to those who are well positioned to gauge their talents – the heads of legal departments, senior in-house counsel and other business leaders, in addition to India-focused international lawyers.

Many of our chosen lawyers have worked on headline deals, or have received appreciation for getting their clients out of a tight spot. Others have brought a fresh and innovative perspective on issues, or have advised on complex legal issues while keeping in mind commercial realities.

Trusted guides

Mohit Gogia, a partner at S&R Associates in New Delhi is “excellent at corporate work and comes up with practical solutions”, says Sapan Gupta, the general counsel at ArcelorMittal India.

Gogia began his career working at Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom in New York from 2006-2008, after which he moved back to India to become a partner at S&R Associates in 2014. He also teaches transactional M&A courses at Jindal Global Law School as an adjunct professor.

Among his significant work in the past year, Gogia was one of the leads in advising France’s Groupe ADP (formerly Aéroports de Paris), on its acquisition of an aggregate 49% stake in GMR Airports for ₹107.8 billion (US$1.4 billion).

Nitin Jain, a partner at Agama Law Associates in Mumbai, is credited for his “valuable legal guidance” by Bijai Jayarajan, the CEO at tech startup Houm Technology.

Jain worked as an in-house counsel for a decade with Mahindra Group and Tata Chemicals, before making the switch to a law firm. “Working closely with their CXOs (chief experience officers) sharpened my business instincts,” says Jain. “It enhanced my outlook as a commercial lawyer. I have also seen a large number of crisis situations in these corporates, which helped me in pre-empting risks and going beyond the brief to help clients in overcoming risks.”

Vikas Parasrampuria, the managing director at Voler Car, recommends him for being “a guiding force over the years in resolving complex cases”. Girish Gadgil, vice president and legal head, auto sector, at Mahindra & Mahindra, adds Jain “has been able to successfully resolve our important matters with practical advice, without compromising our legal position”.

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Anupam Prasad, the founder of AP Law Chambers in Mumbai, is “the best when it comes to mergers”, says Anindya Majumdar, the head of legal at TBO Holidays, a hotel booking platform for travel agents. “His in-depth knowledge and execution make the process much simpler and hassle-free.”

Early in 2020, Prasad left the partnership at IndusLaw to start his own firm, preferring not to follow the traditional path of moving jobs between similar kinds of law firms. While enduring the effects of covid-19 on his practice, Prasad’s firm has advised clients in the fintech, e-commerce, edtech and data privacy space.

“Wanting to improve our time to market, while remaining compliant, [Prasad] was instrumental in assisting us to set up shop in India as an EU-licensed EMI [electronic money institution],” says Robert van Vuure, the senior vice president for international business development at Emerchantpay, an online payment service provider. “He went beyond the assistance we needed and is solid, precise and approachable. He has also become part of our family.”

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Goda Raghavan, a partner in AK Law Chambers in Chennai, is “highly dedicated and supportive of clients”, according to Sailendra Vemulapalli, the managing director of real estate company Creative Developers. Working in Anirudh Krishnan’s firm, she is one of the few women to head a corporate transaction practice in the city.

Raghavan advised the promoters of QuickRide in their 1 billion fundraise from Naspers Ventures, Sequoia and VH Capital in mid-2019.

Shobhana Sriram, the chief technology officer of carpooling app QuickRide, commends her for her professional attitude. “Goda is a hardworking and energetic lawyer who has exceptional understanding of Indian laws. She has handled our series A and series B funding rounds admirably by providing the right guidance at every step.”

Ashutosh Sharma, the India head of investments at Prosus Ventures, the internet assets division of Naspers Ventures, who is now also a director at QuickRide, says: “Goda has a diligent and thorough understanding of not only the law but also market practice in the startup space. She led the transaction with ease and command, despite the involvement of numerous parties, and contributed largely to the quick closure of each deal.”

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Gautam Anand, the founder of podcast publishing platform Hubhopper, says Sarika Raichur, a partner at Kochhar & Co in New Delhi is the “most sharp, astute and determined lawyer” he knows.

Raichur, who has a focus on private equity and venture capital matters, joined Kochhar in 2016 after leaving her position as an external consultant at Noerr in London, where she worked for more than five years. She was also previously a co-founding partner at Yuti Law Partners. Abhishek Soni, a co-founder of Upwards Fintech Services, says “[Raichur has] in-depth knowledge of her subject matter, and is always proactive in helping out and assisting us as needed.”

Diligent and thorough

Puneet Bansal, the vice president at BOB Capital Markets, which is the investment banking subsidiary of Bank of Baroda, has worked with Abir Dey, a partner at L&L Partners based in Mumbai, for the past seven years. “Besides being diligent, [Dey] is thorough with the current RBI [Reserve Bank of India] regulation, its interpretation and impact,” says Bansal. “Whenever I have posed a query to him, I have always got an answer without fail.”

The pandemic struck within the first few months of Dey joining L&L Partners, prompting him to acquire new skill sets and manage his team working remotely.

Among his significant work in the past year, Dey carried out due diligence for Yes Bank, which was facing financial stress and an RBI moratorium. Dey had to perform diligence on the bank’s significant loan disbursements, and recommend strategies for enforcement and recovery of the loans for the purpose of investors, prior to the State Bank of India taking over control of the bank.

“The biggest takeaway from the transaction was the sectoral knowledge imparted to the team in a very short span of time,” says Dey. “The matter involved several stringent timelines, with multiple long hours spent in the office. However we made the experience and atmosphere enjoyable and jovial by various team-building activities, such as dinners and outings, whenever we got the opportunity.”

Aditya Jha, a partner at Trilegal in Mumbai is “one of the sharpest young lawyers” in the assessment of Nupur Garg, an independent director at the development financial institution SIDBI. “His grasp of a situation/transaction is amazing, and so is his ability to break down the issue into manageable problems,” says Garg. “He has come into his own and has the talent to reach right up to the legal icon league.”

When starting out, Jha intended to pursue a career in litigation, but things took a different turn on meeting a mentor, who helped him to make up his mind about a two-year trainee contract at SJ Berwin in London. “My mentor’s response was quite clear,” says Jha. “If I had to practise law for the next 30 odd years, what harm could two years do? Moving there was the best career decision I could have taken. In fact, had I not gone to London, I doubt I would have been an asset management and funds practitioner.”

Nick Benson, a partner at Latham & Watkins, who has worked with Jha for many years, describes him as “a standout legal adviser who is very highly regarded in the Indian and London markets”.

In the past year, Jha has advised Morgan Stanley on its maiden India infrastructure fund, and Edelweiss on the establishment of multiple blind pool and club-styled funds, and also managed accounts for the likes of the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board for US$350 million.

Exhibiting commercial acumen

Abhinav Kumar, a partner at Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas (CAM) in Mumbai, is described as “a hard-working lawyer” by Komal Gadia, a general manager at the Aditya Birla Group. “He goes the distance to find an appropriate solution for the client that is on the right side of the law,” says Gadia.

Similarly, Pragati Kumar, the assistant general counsel at JP Morgan, recommends Kumar for his “capital market expertise”.

Kumar has been with CAM since the beginning of his career, 12 years ago. Starting out with M&A and general corporate-related advisory work, he switched to advising on capital markets transactions full time after three years.

In 2020, he worked on ICICI Bank’s qualified institutional placement (QIP) of shares, the biggest QIP to date by a private bank in India, in addition to advising on Bandhan Financial Services’ sale of 20.9% shares in Bandhan Bank, the largest block deal in a private bank to date.

Sumit Agrawal, founder and partner at Regstreet Law Advisors in Mumbai, is credited for his “excellent knowledge relating to securities-related laws” by Rajendra Patil, the head of legal at IndusInd Bank.

While some law firm lawyers work as in-house counsel to gain the perspective of the client, Agrawal spent his time gaining the perspective of a higher power – the regulator. He worked at the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) for nearly a decade in the areas of integrated surveillance, legal affairs and regulatory policy, commodities derivatives, and enforcement litigation.

Agrawal was part of the Chief Justice NK Sodhi Committee on insider trading, and the investigation team for a 2003 IPO scam in which Roopalben Panchal and her associates operated thousands of fictitious accounts and cornered shares meant for retail investors in several IPOs, and the 2009 Satyam scam, in which B Ramalinga Raju, the former chairman of the listed company Satyam Computer Services, was sent to prison for accounting fraud.

Suresh Nair, vice president of the National Stock Exchange of India says: “Sumit has an excellent quality of analysing the legal issues and their related techno-legal aspects.”

Among his significant work in the past year, Agrawal represented Piramal Group at the Securities Appellate Tribunal. “We successfully obtained a favourable order in perhaps India’s first and only judgment on the concept of ‘need to know’ under the SEBI’s insider trading regulations, where the SEBI penalty was set aside,” says Agrawal.

Farid Kazani, the managing director and group CFO at insurance tech company Majesco, credits Abhishek Dadoo, a partner at Khaitan & Co in Mumbai, for exhibiting “a fine combination of in-depth knowledge of law, commercial acumen and solution-oriented thinking – all of which are valuable facets in real-world deal making”.

Dadoo, who specializes in M&A for listed companies, was part of the core team to advise Majesco on the sale of its Nasdaq-listed US subsidiary to private equity firm Thoma Bravo in 2020. He also worked on Vedanta’s attempted delisting and consequent voluntary open offer for equity shares this year. Vikram Munje, the president-corporate and group general counsel of engineering and manufacturing conglomerate Kalyani Group, says: “A blend of domain legal knowledge and commercial acumen is extremely rare among young lawyers, but Abhishek is truly an exception.”

Dadoo calls public M&A the most interesting and complex space in Indian corporate law, and recalls being enamoured (and a little lost) when working on his first deal in this area.

Beyond the call of duty

Manavendra Mishra, a partner at Khaitan & Co in Mumbai, is “mature beyond his years and has great instincts”, says Gautam Bhattacharyya, a partner at Reed Smith in London.

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Mishra started his career as an in-house counsel with ICICI Bank, and says his banking background and comfort with numbers has served him well in his career. Providing a slice of his life, Mishra recalls working with a senior counsel for a joint venture dispute, which was heard at the Supreme Court, Delhi High Court, National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) New Delhi, and the London Court of International Arbitration.

“One of my most cherished memories used to be watching Champions League Football at 1.30am in his room, and we used to go through 20 judgments or multiple pleadings into the wee hours, and then be back in the court, or NCLT, at 10am for the matter,” he says. “The client was an equally energetic and engaging personality, who used to go for a run at the Delhi Golf Club at 6am, after the meetings, and still be raring to go.”

Montek Mayal, the senior managing director at business advisory firm FTI Consulting India, calls Mishra a “young professional who deserves to be recognized for his commendable work”.

Anish Jaipuriar, a partner at AKS Partners in New Delhi, is “diligent, prompt and knowledgeable in matters relating to debt fund raising,” says Ashish Ahuja, the CEO of Shiv Om Dayal Energies, an ethanol producer. “At such a young age he is able to soundly advise on complex legal issues that account for not just the law but also accommodate practical commercial realities.”

Jaipuriar says a crucial moment came early in his career, when a senior partner had assigned him the responsibility of managing a deal that involved termination of regional franchise agreements and the transfer of an entire minority stake to their client, a well known name in the restaurant space. “This was the first time I was truly involved in transaction work right from drafting to closing of a transaction,” he says. “This lent me a huge opportunity of understanding the underlying dynamics of a deal.”

Manish Dembla, a partner at Kochhar & Co in Gurugram, is credited for his “great performance” in international engineering, procurement and construction cases by Jun Chen, a senior partner at Shanghai City Development Law Firm.

Dembla spent about five years splitting his practice between corporate and dispute resolution work, which is a rarity among lawyers. Although he only handles a minimum amount of corporate work, he credits this experience to making him a more well-rounded lawyer.

Dembla recently successfully represented Wells Fargo Bank in two covid-19 related cases where the Bombay High Court ruled that lockdown was no excuse for a company to avoid contractual obligations to make payments.

Elizabeth Soo, a senior counsel at Wells Fargo Bank, describes Dembla as a “sharp and effective lawyer with a keen sense of how to communicate at the right level to deliver what is needed, whether it be in litigious responses or advice – all done with clarity and without a wasted sentence”.

John Bishop, an arbitrator at Arbitration Chambers in Hong Kong, says that on major disputes for an international contractor, “Manish has prime responsibility for contentious correspondence, tribunal and court documents, and client advice. Under considerable pressure he has produced very high-quality legal work and advice.”

Madhusudan Jena, the deputy general manager (law) at the state-owned company MMTC, says Manmeet Kaur, a principal associate at Karanjawala & Co in New Delhi, is “an outstanding advocate and has a photographic memory”.

One of Kaur’s clients, Amiteshwar Singh, a manager at Indian motorcycle and scooter manufacturer Hero MotoCorp, credits her for her “innovative thinking” on complex issues. Some of her other clients that she has successfully represented in disputes include budget hotels aggregator Oyo Rooms, real estate company Raheja Developers, private radio station Radio City and mass media company HT Media.


METHODOLOGY

India Business Law Journal’s list of 50 Future Legal Leaders was compiled following an extensive consultation exercise in which thousands of in-house counsel and hundreds of India-focused international lawyers were asked to nominate up-and-coming lawyers who have the potential to reach the peak of the profession, and to explain their reasons for the nominations. They were asked to consider lawyers who have set up their own firms, as well as those working in long-established firms who show great promise.

The exercise was part of a larger research process that included three categories: A-List lawyers; legal icons; and rising stars. The lawyers identified in this list belong to the third category, rising stars, who are seen as the future leaders of India’s legal profession. Details of A-List Lawyers and Legal Icons may be found here.

Our final list of 50 Future Legal Leaders reflects the nominations received combined with the India Business Law Journal editorial team’s more than 30 years of collective experience in documenting and analysing India’s legal market.

All lawyers working at Indian law firms, except those who were recognized in India Business Law Journal’s annual A-List (and whose stars may therefore be considered to have already risen), were eligible for consideration. The list does not cover senior counsel, lawyers working for independent chambers, in-house counsel, and Indian lawyers working in other countries. As always, there were no fees or any other requirements for being considered.

Nominations were received from professionals at a wide range of Indian and international companies, law firms and other organizations, including: 3i Group; Accenture; Adani Electricity; Adani Enterprises; Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone; Adani Power; Adarsh Group of Hotels; Aditya Birla; Aditya Birla Sun Life Insurance; AEON; Airavat Capital; Airbnb; Airbus; Airports Authority of India; Airports Economic Regulatory Authority; Akin Gump; Al Tamimi & Company; Allen & Gledhill; Allen & Overy; Amazon; Anderson Mori & Tomotsune; Apollo Hospitals; ArcelorMittal; Arvind Fashions; Avendus; Axis Bank; Baker McKenzie; Bank of America; Bank of Baroda; Bharat Heavy Electricals; Bird & Bird; Boeing; Bombay Stock Exchange; Cadence Design Systems; Canara Bank; Canon; Castrol; China State Construction Engineering Corporation; Cisco Systems; Cleary Gottlieb; Clifford Chance; Clyde & Co; CMS; Coca-Cola; Cognizant; Cooley; Credit Suisse; Cummins; Dell; Delta Corp; Dentons; DHL; Diageo; DLA Piper; Dr Lal Path Labs; DSP Merrill Lynch; Duane Morris & Selvam; Edelweiss; Emerson Electric; Ernst & Young; Essar Oil; Eversheds Sutherland; ExxonMobil; FIFA; Flipkart; Ford Motor Company; Fortis Healthcare; Fujifilm; GAIL; Gaja Capital; Genpact; GlaxoSmithKline; Goldman Sachs; Haldanes; Havells; HDFC Bank; Herbert Smith Freehills; Hero Enterprise; Hindalco Industries; Hindustan Unilever; Hitachi; ICICI Venture Funds Management; Indiabulls; Indosat Ooredoo; IndusInd Bank; JP Morgan; Jayant Group; JM Financial Limited; Jones Day; Kajaria Ceramics; Kenya Airways; King & Wood Mallesons; Kohler; Kotak Mahindra Capital; KPMG; LafargeHolcim; Larsen & Toubro; Latham & Watkins; Linklaters; Lufthansa; Mahindra & Mahindra; MakeMyTrip; Maruti Suzuki; Max Life Insurance; Medichek; Michelin Tyres; Milbank; Mondelez India Foods; Morgan Stanley; Mori Hamada & Matsumoto; Mylan Pharmaceuticals; Nabors Drilling; Natio Cultus; National Stock Exchange of India; NatWest; Nippon Life; NIRMALA Hospital; Nishimura & Asahi; Nissan; Norton Rose Fulbright; Nvidia Graphics; PepsiCo; Pernod Ricard; Petronas; Pfizer; Pillsbury Winthrop; Pritesh Fireworks; PwC; Rabobank; Rajah and Tann; Rajhans Builders and Developers; Ramky Infrastructure; Raymond; Reckitt Benckiser; Reebok; Reed Smith; Reliance Capital; Reliance Chemicals; Saama Capital; Salesforce. com; Samsung; SBI Capital Markets; SBM Bank; Schindler; SEBI; Sequoia Capital; SIDBI; Sidley Austin; Sigma Ventures; Simmons & Simmons; Skadden; Slaughter and May; Snapbizz Cloudtech; Sony Pictures; Squire Patton Boggs; Standard Chartered Bank; Sumitomo Corporation; Tata Capital Healthcare Fund; Tata Chemicals; Tata Housing; Tata Sky; Tata Steel; Tech Mahindra; Tetra Pak; The Indian Hotels Company; The Oberoi Group of Hotels and Resorts; Total; TVS Automobile Solutions; United Breweries; Unitus Capital; Vedanta; Wells Fargo Bank; Yes Bank; Zaiwalla & Co; Zomato, and hundreds more.

The names and photographs of all 50 Future Legal Leaders are published on the page that follow (https://law.asia/india/india-legal-leaders-2021/). Each lawyer was also given the opportunity to include their biography and contact details, for which a publishing fee was charged. It is important to note that while the compilation of the Future Legal Leaders was based solely on independent editorial research, the biographies and contact details that appear alongside many of the listings have been written by the participating lawyers, and the content has not been independently verified by India Business Law Journal.