With the worst of the pandemic behind us, and despite looming clouds in the global economy and geopolitics, India Business Law Journal’s annual market survey finds law firms in a buoyant mood on the health of the legal profession. Parinaaz Daruwalla reports

Managing partners at law firms are more optimistic about the future than they have been in years as the negative effects of the pandemic on the economy decline. For the current fiscal year, law firm leaders believe that the impact of economic growth will percolate deeper into the legal system, translating into more opportunities within the industry.

“The growth of the Indian economy and corporate India is a huge opportunity for law firms in India,” says Mohit Saraf, founder and managing partner of Saraf & Partners in New Delhi.

Rabindra Jhunjhunwala, a senior partner at Khaitan & Co in Mumbai, notes: “Opportunities abound for Indian businesses, and by extension for legal service providers. India has been resilient through the pandemic and is a relatively bright spot for global investors on the long-term horizon.”

In the past year, law firms have observed notable trends spinning off from increased digitalisation, which has prompted operations to become more tech-savvy, as well as to develop capabilities in new practice areas that have come to the fore with this innovation.

“The digitalisation of legal processes gave an unprecedented change to the legal services industry,” says Uday Singh Ahlawat, the managing partner of Ahlawat & Associates in New Delhi. “Indian courts resorted to virtual court systems. This had seemed unimaginable in a vast country like India.”

Aliff Fazelbhoy, a senior partner at ALMT Legal in Mumbai, says: “At a firm’s operational level, the hybrid model of working from home and office, and heavy dependence on technology for data like SharePoint, OneDrive etc., was largely unheard of pre-2020, but has become a regular norm.”

Apurv Sardeshmukh, a partner at Legasis Partners in Pune, adds: “There is now a realisation that sticking to conventional practice areas is not sufficient. Firms are now increasingly building their practices in non-conventional and developing areas like cryptocurrencies, the metaverse, NFTs [non-fungible tokens], data privacy, etc.”

Manisha Singh, the founding partner of LexOrbis in New Delhi, says that internally, the increased dependency on technology has paved the way for a reformed legal service delivery model. “The virtual conduct of work at IP offices was a welcome move to assist the ease of doing business,” she says.

Joshita Davar Khemani, the managing partner at LS Davar & Co in Kolkata, says that in the past year, “digitalisation of courts and law firms going paperless has been the most significant update in India”.

As part of our editorial report accompanying the India Business Law Directory, India Business Law Journal conducted an annual survey to ascertain the general mood of the industry.

Responses were received from firms of various sizes, including: DSK Legal, Khaitan & Co, Saraf & Partners, Ahlawat & Associates, Fox Mandal & Associates, Singhania & Partners, Dhir & Dhir Associates, LexOrbis, ALMT Legal, DLS Law Offices, Solomon & Co, Juris Corp, Lexicon Law Partners, YNSS Law Offices, Bhasin & Co, LS Davar & Co, Hitesh Soni & Associates, LexCounsel Law Offices, and many others.

Lawyers believe India is set to lead the global growth trajectory, backed by more manufacturing, increasing forex reserves, strong domestic demand, the resilience of the IT sector from a weakening rupee against the dollar, and a capex cycle that is gathering pace.

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