Several senior foreign lawyers with India expertise have joined new law firms of late. Vandana Chatlani explores what is prompting them to move

In the past 12 months, several foreign lawyers with prominent India-related experience have jumped ship. While recruitment drives within the legal community are not uncommon, most of the lawyers we spoke with had been with their firms for a decade or longer. So, why move now?

It appears the covid pandemic created the perfect storm; a time for reflection and re-evaluation amid a landscape of flourishing deals.

“Despite the pandemic, deal activity has gone through the roof in the past 12 to 18 months,” says Sidharth Bhasin, a former partner at Shearman & Sterling who joined Latham & Watkins in September. Bhasin reports a record year for M&A deals in Asia in 2020, and says the level of activity in the first half of 2021 was even higher than the previous year.

“Most of the top firms are having record years, which seems counterintuitive in the midst of a global pandemic, but that may be a reason why people have been looking at hiring more and growing their team sizes,” says Bhasin.

Babita Ambekar, who left DWF and joined CMS in January as a partner and head of the India practice in the Asia-Pacific, was surprised with the extent of opportunistic outbound M&A from India.

“India has had its challenges with covid, but at the moment it’s buzzing,” she says. “Companies are looking at either outbound acquisitive activity, joint ventures or collaborations. Some companies are thinking of restructuring to move their base outside of India. It’s a really interesting time.”

Andrew Edge, a former partner at Stephenson Harwood who moved to Taylor Wessing in April, says the European markets have been equally busy. “The legal market is absolutely booming,” he says. “None of us have ever seen anything like it. There has been no let up since last autumn.”

Edge believes new recruitment opportunities have emerged as a result of increased work, and that this, combined with a self-contemplative period during covid, has led to “more fluidity in the market than there would otherwise be”.

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