India Business Law Journal reveals the country’s top lawyers and legal icons in 2019

The fourth annual edition of the A-List is a continuation of India Business Law Journal’s efforts to recognize India’s most outstanding lawyers. This year, in order to acknowledge the grandees of the legal profession, as well as recognizing our regular 100 A-List of highly talented practitioners, we identify 35 legal “icons”.

As in previous years, the A-List is based on nominations and supporting information provided by law firm clients, as well as India-focused lawyers at international law firms. As such, it provides a snapshot of current sentiment and identifies the lawyers who in the eyes of the market have performed the strongest and received the greatest prominence in the past 12 months. There are many outstanding lawyers who have not made it onto this year’s A-List, and their absence should not be seen as a denigration of their skills or expertise. However, the lawyers who appear on the A-List have received critical acclaim from their clients, peers and other observers, and their inclusion is an achievement of which they and their law firms can feel justifiably proud.

More details of the methodology can be found below. The analysis that follows provides highlights of the 2019 A-List, including endorsements of many of the recognized lawyers by those who nominated them. The full list of all 100 A-List lawyers and 35 legal icons can be found here.

What makes an A-List lawyer?

A look at the qualities that clients and international peers value most in A-List lawyers shows it is not only their skills in particular areas of law, but also their attention to detail, trustworthiness and entrepreneurial approach to working with clients.

Abhishek Saxena, a co-founding partner at Phoenix Legal, pays “personal attention to all deals he manages” and has “super negotiation skills”, according to Sahil Vohra, the head of business and legal affairs at National Geographic & Fox Networks. Vohra commends Saxena for his “ability to delve into minute details and not lose sight of the larger scope of a transaction”.

Rabindra Jhunjhunwala at Khaitan & Co is “always responsive, hands-on and 100% reliable”, says Philipp Behrendt, a partner at Taylor Wessing’s office in Germany. Behrendt calls him “our go-to lawyer for all international clients”.

Anand Jalan, an investment director at Edelweiss, says Jhunjhunwala “is an asset to have on your side”, adding he always offers proactive and sound advice.

Feroz Dubash at Talwar Thakore & Associates is praised by Neeta Sanghavi, the general counsel at investment bank Avendus for being a “sharp lawyer and very articulate”. “[He is] one of the best corporate lawyers I have come across, possessing a deep knowledge of the law and market practices.”

Meanwhile, Shuva Mandal, managing partner at Fox Mandal & Associates, is described as “an excellent corporate lawyer” by Indrajit Majumder, the managing partner of Reed Smith’s Dallas office. “His team and he are very efficient and are one of the go-to teams in south India.”

Nisha Kaur Uberoi, the national head of the competition law practice at Trilegal, is strongly recommended by Chetan Chopra, the head of legal at United Breweries. “I can say without any hesitation that Nisha is the best antitrust lawyer in the country,” says Chopra. “I worked very closely with her in my previous organizations and it was a great experience. I keep telling my peers in other organizations that if you are involved in an antitrust matter, please work with her, because you don’t want her on the opposite side.”

Another competition lawyer who receives high praise from clients is Gurdev Raj Bhatia, a partner at L&L Partners who was also the former additional director general of the Competition Commission of India (CCI). Rajiv Bakshi, the group general counsel of JSW Steel, calls Bhatia a “sound antitrust lawyer”. He says due to Bhatia’s experience at the CCI, he has an insight into the thinking of the commission, even when it may remain a mystery for clients.

Steven Cherry, a partner at US-based law firm WilmerHale, says: “I have worked closely with Bhatia and his team on a number of cartel matters over the past several years, and have found them to be excellent lawyers. They are very knowledgeable about Indian competition law, and very responsive.”

Hemant Singh, managing partner at Inttl Advocare, is credited for providing “outstanding advice in patent matters, and in defending and enforcing pharmaceutical patents”, by Peter Roth, the head of patent litigation at Novartis in Switzerland. Dhwani Rao, the senior legal counsel at Nestle India, calls Singh “extremely effective”.

Poornima Hatti, a partner at Samvad Partners, is recommended by Suraj Moraje, a senior partner at McKinsey in Bengaluru. He recommends her for being “a very committed and knowledgeable lawyer who has accomplished a lot at a young age”.

Rashi Dhir, a senior partner at DMD Advocates, receives praise from a number of clients in India and the US. “Rashi is definitely A-List worthy,” says Shradha Suri, the managing director of Subros auto air conditioning company. “[He] is by far one of the most professional and knowledgeable lawyers that we have interacted with.”

Kishore Jayaraman, the president of Rolls Royce India and South Asia, says, “[Dhir] brings out the best in case matters through his neutral and honest positions that lead to timely solutions.”

a-listThe icons

This year’s A-List identifies the legal icons among A-List lawyers. These are the most recognizable names in India’s legal profession, the titans who have built firms and become enviable legal brands in their own right. Their level of direct involvement in the legal mechanics of complex deals may vary, but their mere presence is often sufficient to placate clients, open doors and bring matters to fruition.

“Zia [Mody – founder and managing partner at AZB & Partners] gets into each detail and addresses the crux of the matter at hand,” says Harshbeena Zaveri, the vice chair and managing director at NRB Bearings, an auto parts manufacturer. “She is a business process partner who helps bring value to your business via her legal advice and documentation. Her advice is both practical and legally sound, and that ensures peace of mind.”

David Cameron, a Hong Kong-based partner at Dorsey & Whitney, describes her as “a leader in her field and an inspiration to the next generation of lawyers”.

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