EmerGING Leaders 2019
private practice Shortlist
Partner, Khaitan & Co
Started practice: 2000
Practice areas: M&A, Private Equity, Restructuring & Insolvency
“The aspect that I like most about being a lawyer is that I am tested in new and interesting ways on a regular basis. The law in India is constantly evolving and so, just like other lawyers in the market, I constantly need to learn, adapt and sometimes re-invent myself to keep pace with the changes.”
Nikhil worked in the UK as an investment banker and for major international law firms before returning to India to join Khaitan & Co in 2015. This background inspires his input on the firm’s training approaches, as well as developing the firm’s internal processes. Nikhil contributes to legal scholarship in India and is a key voice in international discourse on India’s insolvency law, organising a conference in London on the topic in 2018. The challenges he faced both building an international and domestic legal career has shaped his passion for detail and his focus on clients.
He received the most recommendations of any emerging leader in the sample from a variety of clients and peers. His answers to his questionnaire – all of which were blind reviewed – were stand-out in terms of the vision he showed and his ability to analyse the challenges that face the legal profession, not just in India but globally too. Nikhil was also stand-out in his self-awareness and capacity for team-building.
What do clients say about him: "Having worked with Nikhil for a few years, I have seen him invest time in mentoring juniors and building a team around him. I now receive the same high standard of attention from his team that I have gotten used to receiving from Nikhil…. It is clear that Nikhil is part of a small community of thought leaders who are shaping the distressed landscape in India."
What was his greatest achievement for a client: Advised on the disposal of Saudi Aramco’s shipping business to the Bahri Group for US$1.3bn.
Leadership qualities: Expertise and client loytaly shows mastery ǁ Radical vision for the future of the profession ǁ Nurtures his team ǁ Influential in the profession and the firm ǁ Values integrity as a leader
Partner, Bathiya Legal
Started practice: 2014
Practice areas: Finance
“My focus is always on the reasons why a junior lawyer makes mistakes and enabling the juniors with know-how, resources and technology to quickly enable them to avoid mistakes.”
Janak started his career as a chartered accountant before transitioning to law in 2014, giving him an unusual breadth of expertise as an advisor. As the managing partner of Bathiya Legal, he develops young lawyers by giving them independence, rather than simply looking for graduates from specific law schools. He has also taken a lead role in implementing technology at the firm.
What do clients say about him: "He is a brilliant young advocate, has perfect answers to almost all our queries and problems. Soft spoken, excellent listener, confident and has an excellent knowledge base. Has never let us down in the last eight years we have known him and have availed of his service."
What is he most passionate about: Janak is nimble and un-afraid to take on new roles that might be out of his comfort zone. He says he was passionate about, “being a makeshift Chief Technology Officer” who regularly implements software tools to help his team work more efficiently.
Leadership qualities: Nurturing approach to managing his team ǁ Open-minded in assessing potential in people ǁ Client reviews show his professional mastery ǁ Vision for how to improve the profession ǁ A courageous career change
Partner, Khaitan & Co
Started practice: 2005
Practice area: Corporate, Commercial, Finance
“…we appreciate that we work hard and so are very committed to work-life balance. This is something I obsessively track and readily intervene to ensure. We have a great culture where attorneys step in and cover for each other to ensure this. Nothing builds better team culture.”
Since 2013, Ashwin has collaborated on building a leading restructuring and insolvency practice at Khaitan & Co, growing a significant client base and a team of 15 partners and 45 lawyers.
Ashwin helped co-found the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy in 2009, to facilitate discussions about new legislation in India, and works with the India Research Foundation to improve India’s new bankruptcy code.
What was his greatest achievement for a client: Advised two private equity firms on the acquisition of a business that was de-merging from a larger listed company, closing the deal before the business was publicly listed.
Leadership qualities: Shows vision for the future through his policy research ǁ Optimistic when faced with challenges ǁ Creates a nurturing environment for his team ǁ Showed courage in a risky career move ǁ Believes in showing humility by focusing on actions rather than words
Founding Partner, Spice Route Legal
Started practice: 2003
Practice area: Technology, Media, Telecommunications
“I think that we are on the wave of a technology-led revolution and, as a geek, our ability to assist on the ethical and legal adoption of technology - from patent law to AI to facial recognition and privacy - is something that excites me every day.”
Mathew co-founded law firm Spice Route Legal in 2016 with a focus on cross-jurisdictional and multi-disciplinary legal matters. He is a trained coder and a champion for training lawyers to provide legal expertise for India’s growing technology sector, as well as other industries that need to embrace technology. His goal as a leader is to ensure that he is facilitating the career progression of young lawyers rather than acting as an obstacle. He is also an advocate for greater social responsibility in the legal profession.
What do clients think of him:"They are a great team to work with. Their domain knowledge and expertise help start-ups like ours to get a clear over-all picture. They are extremely supportive in all circumstances and always present a high-quality deliverable."
What was his greatest achievement for a client: Advising an entrepreneur in establishing a crowd funding company in India in 2011 that was the first of its kind and has since raised over 700 crores (US$70m). Spice Route Legal was also responsible for structuring the legal framework for India’s first Initial Coin Offering.
Leadership qualities: Client reviews indicate his professional mastery ǁ Influential in his pursuit of new expertise and efficiency ǁ Nurturing in his support for his team ǁ A clear vision of where the market is heading ǁ Showed courage in co-founding a new firm
Partner, Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas
Started practice: 2009
Practice area: Corporate
“A favourite piece of quirky advice that I dole out to all my juniors comes from annals of Cricket history – apparently Maharaja Ranjithshighji (Maharaja of Nawanagar, represented England in international cricket) told a young C. K. Nayudu (who later on became the first captain of the Indian international cricket team) to follow three injunctions – “Balla Seedha Rakho, Daro Mat aur Jor Se Maro”. Translated for our context, this roughly means – play with a straight bat (be diligent and straight forward), don’t be afraid and hit hard (be confident – about yourself and your work).”
As well as honing expertise in his practice area, Kota shows humility and self-awareness by constantly trying to learn and improve. He advocates for a work environment that is supportive and creates well-rounded lawyers, and takes an active role to develop the firm’s recruitment and training processes.
What was his greatest achievement for a client: Represented a private equity investor in the acquisition of a real estate platform with a diverse group of shareholders, navigating through contentious negotiations resolving a deadlock that had been reached between the parties. In his own words, “the satisfaction I derive from dissipating conflict and getting parties to agree to solutions that were either not readily apparent or were in some way ‘out of the box’ is what drives me at work.”
Leadership qualities: Clients recognise his professional mastery ǁ Nurtures his team through investing in the workplace environment and professional development ǁ Resilience in in the face of challenges ǁ Optimism in finding solutions to problems and looking at the future of the profession ǁ Shows humility by acknowledging his weaknesses and taking a considered approach to improvement
Founding Partner of the Delhi Office, Nishith Desai Associates
Started practice: 2000
Practice area: Private Equity, Regulatory
“I have from the beginning given associates in the offices a sense of ownership in the setting up and growth of the office, with freedom to interact directly with clients at a very early stage in their career. I have also focused on ensuring diversity in the office with balance of genders, religion and regional representation.”
As the founder of Nishith Desai’s Delhi office, Pratibha maintains a ‘start-up’ mind-set by actively delegating responsibility to create more team ownership. She focuses on developing their global perspectives and business acumen.
With deep experience working for international law firms and in the financial sector, Pratibha has advised the government on various finance projects and obtaining foreign investment. She does pro bono work that delivers positive social impact for her community, such as projects to address violence against women.
What was her greatest achievement for a client: Worked with Indian financial regulators to obtain the licenses required for setting up the Goldman Sachs India office, allowing the business to successfully and quickly operate.
Leadership qualities: Nurturing and supporting her team ǁ Maintaining integrity through her pursuit of equal opportunities ǁ Professional mastery shown through the success of the firm and her advisory work ǁ Courage in founding a new office ǁ Resilience in taking on new challenges
Partner, Pioneer Legal
Started practice: 2007
Practice area: Private Equity, Mergers & Acquisitions
“Law firms have long functioned with the belief that their true assets are their clients, without realising that unless you have the right people, and unless you reap the rewards of their continuous years of service to the firm, your clients cannot be well provided for.”
At Pioneer Legal, Pritha focuses on the firm’s ‘happiness policy’ to ensure the overall well-being and retention of its lawyers. She attributes the success of the firm to making sure young lawyers are working in the areas in which they are most interested. As an advocate for the equal treatment of all lawyers in the firm, she holds herself and other members to high standards and promotes the idea of continuous development in the legal profession.
What do clients say about her: “She was lead counsel in the acquisition and, as usual, acquitted herself brilliantly.”
Pritha works to deliver the best legal services possible to fit clients’ specific needs, but one of her more memorable moments was literally saving a client’s life. When the client accidentally consumed nuts, to which she had a deathly allergy, Pritha’s cool head in a crisis enabled the team to react quickly to get the client to the hospital in record time.
Leadership qualities: Nurtures her team by trusting them to take on responsibility ǁ Showed courage in founding Pioneer Legal ǁ Holds herself to a high standard of integrity ǁ Resilience through personal and professional challenges ǁ Optimistic outlook
Shagoofa Rashid Khan
Equity Partner and National Head of Funds, Investments & Advisory, Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas
Started practice: 2002
Practice area: Funds, Investments & Advisory
“Talent retention is an industry wide challenge. To address this challenge, [I] have deliberately focused on seeking and delivering on a variety of mandates, giving lawyers in my team the exposure to work across different mandates…and showcase their respective strengths, which all put together keeps the team motivated to keep raising the bar for ourselves!”
Shagoofa first trained as a chartered accountant before moving into law. She spent several years working in-house in financial services before joining law firm Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas as a partner in 2016. She now heads the practice and advises an impressive range of clients.
She is conscious of the burn-out that lawyers can suffer from, and cultivates an atmosphere that supports her team’s well-being.
Over the past three years, Shagoofa has developed significant market share for her firm. She is part of a Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) working group to amend investment advisors regulations.
What was her greatest achievement for a client: As a general counsel, Shagoofa provided a solution to save an on-going deal following the overnight announcement that Cyprus was no longer classed as a co-operative jurisdiction in India.
Leadership qualities: Supports and nurtures her team ǁ Recognised for her professional mastery ǁ Accountable and able to make tough decisions ǁ Resilience in the face of challenges ǁ Integrity as a leader of her team and in the industry
Partner and Patent Attorney, Khurana & Khurana
Started practice: 2006
Practice area: Intellectual Property
“Recruiting the right people has always been the key challenge…From hiring experienced people even if they are not specifically from the same background but have the right intent, and training them over a period of time on various legal issues, to hiring colleagues from different offices depending on the kind of candidates available in each jurisdiction, to doing a number of lateral hires for avoiding time that training takes; we are trying to address this challenge, which would be a continuous one.”
Tarun trained as a software developer before moving into law, gaining valuable insight into the technology industry. Subsequently, as one of the founding partners of Khurana & Khurana, Tarun has helped the firm expand both nationally and internationally. In 12 years the firm has become a leading name in intellectual property law in India, working for major international clients. Tarun works with start-up companies to educate them on IP issues and helps them with their patent filing needs. He also supports business in India through his pro bono work for public institutions including the National Innovation Foundation and the Global Initiative of Academic Networks.
What do clients say about him: "I have known Tarun for over six years, and have been impressed with his thought leadership and command of the IP topics relevant to India. In a short time, he has been able to grow his firm, mostly based on word of mouth references.”
What was his greatest achievement for a client: Represented DBC Corporation in a patent litigation matter against Sarine Technologies regarding the manufacturing of diamonds.
Leadership qualities: Strategic thinking in expanding the firm ǁ Open-minded approach to recruitment ǁ Client reviews show professional mastery ǁ Clear vision for the future of the profession ǁ Influences his team to create shared goals
Partner, L&L Partners
Started practice: 2004
Practice area: Corporate
“I profoundly believe that I am only as good as my team. Accordingly, I invest a substantial part of my time in training, mentoring and ensuring that I retain a very high quality and self-motivated team.”
Shinoj worked for international law firms Linklaters and Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton in London before returning to India in 2013. This background leads him to prioritise international relationships and give an international perspective to his team and the wider firm.
Shinoj also teaches at the National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata. As a teacher, he pays close attention to his students and how he can draw out those who are less confident.
What do clients say about him: "Very experienced, client friendly and provides excellent insights."
Leadership qualities: A clear vision for the future of the firm and the profession ǁ A nurturing and supportive manager ǁ Resilient when faced with challenging circumstances ǁ Shows empathy when teaching and supporting young lawyers ǁ Takes responsibility and holds himself accountable for the team
Partner, Khaitan & Co
Started practice: 2005
Practice area: Private Equity, Restructuring & Insolvency, Mergers & Acquisitions
“Lead each deal by example, in a manner as unrelenting as possible in terms of availability / client coverage and putting client interests first.”
Kartick has extended Khaitan & Co’s practice to include distressed investment funds, and led the firm’s outreach to the Chinese market. His experience in an international law firm has encouraged him to advocate for greater efficiency and higher quality service.
What do clients say about him: “Showcases tremendous business development skills and the ability to conceptualize and simplify matters for clients. He’s available around the clock for his clients, and lives up to his reputation. He has the potential to become a market leader in the next few years."
Greatest achievement outside work: Kartick gives regular feedback to Indian regulators such as the Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion, the Insolvency & Bankruptcy Board of India, the Ministry of Company Affairs and SEBI on policy matters. It takes time, but he tries to convey the feedback as win-win with the objective of making rules simpler and more efficient. “I believe it to be a necessary and unavoidable investment, especially if I wish to remain a thought leader,” he says.
Leadership qualities: Professional mastery in the eyes of clients ǁ Influences others by sharing knowledge and values ǁ Shows integrity through commitment to excellence ǁ Shows vision in pursuing opportunities in the Chinese market ǁ Protects and takes responsibility for his team
Started practice: 2004
Practice area: Energy, Infrastructure
“I believe that the best outcome for a client can come when their legal advisors are pushed out of their comfort zone to think from first principles and out of the box, and this is something I have tried to encourage in my team.”
Neeraj worked in-house for a utilities company before moving into private practice. He established Trilegal’s Energy and Infrastructure practice in Mumbai, which now serves major clients and covers some of the biggest transactions in the industry, including major contributions to the renewables sector.
Neeraj also contributes to several public initiatives, promoting renewable energy projects. Additionally, he works with one of Delhi’s largest animal shelters.
What his team says about him: “His sector experience is bolstered by a hard-working attitude and the enthusiasm of a trainee…. [He is] a great mentor, passing his day-to-day knowledge on to junior colleagues to ensure that his team functions as a synchronised unit. It’s an absolute pleasure to be associated with Neeraj!”
What was his greatest achievement for a client: Advised on structuring a solar power deal that achieved the lowest tariff ever awarded for a solar project in India without viability gap funding, equating to the price of coal-fired power.
Leadership qualities: Vision for national and international policy ǁ Resilient and calm in a crisis ǁ Nurtures his team by sharing knowledge ǁ Showed courage in making a big career move ǁ Professional mastery shown through industry recognition
Partner, Economic Laws Practice
Started practice: 2003
Practice area: Litigation, Arbitration, Dispute Resolution
“…it is essential to gain the trust of the juniors and provide them with opportunities to explore and challenge themselves, which enables them to rise not only in the profession but learn essential personal values as well.”
After starting out in civil litigation, Jitendra moved into tax litigation. At Economic Laws Practice, he led his team through the departure of two senior partners and expanded the practice areas to include white collar crime. He advocates for the adoption of technology to improve efficiency in law firms and in the courts. He is a skilled people manager and believes that leadership is a process, “by which a person influences others to accomplish an objective and leads the organisation in a coherent and cohesive way.” He gives his juniors the freedom to be creative and take responsibility early.
What do clients say about him: "Jitendra is very dedicated and gives us really good, timely service. We have no stress when our matters are under his care."
What was his greatest achievement for a client: Gained exemption from customs duties for a major power plant. This precedent will have an impact for the rest of the industry as other companies seek to import similar products.
Leadership qualities: Showed resilience when the practice was going through upheaval ǁ Emphasises the need for personality and influence in having an impact ǁ Accountable for his impact on the practice and the community ǁ Values integrity and being trustworthy ǁ Strong vision for how the profession should look in the future
Partner, Phoenix Legal
Started practice: 2002
Practice area: Litigation, Disputes
“I try to foster a healthy working environment for all team members that is conducive to open and frank discussions, and that is devoid of a sense of hierarchy.”
Mrinal has developed the firm’s disputes practice through pursuing new areas of special expertise. He combines this with holistic team development, including regular communication with the whole group and spending time with everyone individually. He also plays an active role in keeping the firm up to date with technology.
Mrinal is an active thought-leader, participating in industry discussion and government groups on a variety of legal issues, as well as contributing to academic research on Indian legal practice.
What was his greatest achievement for a client: Representing the Federation of Indian Airlines before the Supreme Court of India, appealing an impracticable order set out by the National Green Tribunal that would have had industry-wide consequences.
Leadership qualities: Makes time to nurture his team collectively and as individuals ǁ Shows professional mastery through leading in specialist areas of expertise ǁ Resilient in the face of challenges ǁ Influencing others through communicating and standing by principles ǁ Open-minded and able to see the bigger picture
Started practice: 2002
Practice area: Corporate
“Giving clients direct business-like advice that really moves the needle (or occasionally, prompts a re-look at a potential misstep) is what keeps us relevant. It is rewarding when clients reach out, not just because they need a lawyer, but because have they have a critical challenge to address (not necessarily only a legal challenge) for which they feel they need our advice or advocacy. I believe that this is the essence of great lawyering.”
Harsh has championed a wider scope for the M&A practice at Trilegal, taking on high profile strategic transactions. As a teacher at the National Law University and in training his own team, Harsh draws on the experiences of working for US law firm Weil, Gotshal & Manges.
What do clients say about him: "Harsh shows a grasp of the law across jurisdictions, an appreciation of the local context … and a commitment to our interests and a capacity for hard work that make him an invaluable counsellor. He has a distinguished future ahead of him.”
What was his greatest achievement for a client: Helped a major global insurance broker to exit a disputed joint venture and enter a new venture that later allowed the client to buy out its Indian partners.
Leadership qualities: Shows humility by sharing credit with his team and clients ǁ Resilient in the face of challenges ǁ Used strategic thinking in expanding his practice area ǁ Client reviews and his teaching roles indicate mastery of law ǁ Nurturing young lawyers through mentoring and encouragment
Karan Singh Chandhiok
Partner and Head of Competition and Disputes, Chandhiok & Mahajan
Started practice: 2006
Practice area: Competition Law, Dispute Resolution
“…reminding colleagues that there are several short cuts to success, but the longer road is far more rewarding.”
After working for Allen & Overy and Luthra & Luthra, Karan co-founded the firm Chandhiok & Mahajan in 2013, developing it from a two-lawyer competition and disputes boutique to a firm with three offices covering a variety of practice areas and representing major corporations. Karan also advises on competition law enforcement through the Indian Competition Network and the Competition Law Bar Association.
What was his greatest achievement for a client: An investigation into anti-competitive practices in the Indian branch of a global corporate client, co-operating with the Competition Commission of India, which led to their client being granted full immunity.
Leadership qualities: Shows vision in his contributions to industry discourse ǁ Describes a comprehensive and nurturing approach to developing his team ǁ Focuses on influencing young lawyers through sponsorship rather than pulling them along through mentorship ǁ Had the courage to co-found a new firm ǁ Built a successful firm on the back of his professional mastery
Equity Partner, J. Sagar Associates
Started practice: 2001
Practice area: Corporate, Finance
“When faced at a young age with options such as building a practice and paying for it, it helped to overcome market practice by the strength of the conviction that without integrity, everything is lost.”
Aarthi co-founded the law firm Vichar Partners in Chennai, building the region’s largest corporate practice, which merged with national law firm J. Sagar Associates in 2014.
As a founder of Vichar Partners, Aarthi championed a more meritocratic and less status-driven workplace. Aarthi’s expansive vision for the legal profession in India includes: embracing technology and more efficient processes; greater diversity and inclusion in the workforce; serving communities through pro bono work and responsible leadership.
What do clients say about her: "Aarthi provides a high quality of advice, as well as being accessible and having impressive knowledge and negotiation skills in M&A."
What was her greatest achievement for a client? Closing a complex strategic acquisition for a client in the healthcare sector.
Leadership qualities: A strong vision of how the industry should look in the future ǁ Courage in founding a new firm ǁ Nurturing and supportive of her team ǁ Resilient in the face of challenges ǁ Demonstrates integrity by sticking to her principles
Partner, Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co
Started practice: 2004
Practice area: Finance
"’Every day is a new normal’. The last four years have seen so many regulatory, judicial and other changes in the Banking and Finance world that I feel I learn something new every day. It’s in the nature of a judgement, new law, market practice or just commercial understanding. This is what makes me feel so passionate about this profession.”
Years spent working in India’s financial services sector has given Veena deep expertise, and she continues to expand her clientele in this field. She has also developed her commercial expertise as a seed investor and sits on the advisory board for a technology start-up.
As a manager, she focuses on giving her lawyers responsibility and advocates for more balance between work and personal time to foster a respectful working environment in the firm.
What do clients say about her: “She is extremely client-centric, problem-solving oriented, patient and, more importantly, very transparent.” Veena particularly received praise for her professional integrity.
What her peers say about her: "She is a leader par excellence and has been instrumental in mentoring a dedicated team of financing and restructuring lawyers who are responsible, commercial and hardworking whilst also being thought leaders.”
Leadership qualities: Client reviews show that Veena demonstrates professional mastery ǁ Mentors and nurtures her team ǁ Industry engagement indicates market vision ǁ Approaches her work with passion and optimism ǁ Shows empathy for her peers
Mithun V. Thanks
Equity Partner, Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co
Started practice: 2005
Practice area: Corporate, Mergers & Acquisitions, Private Equity
“While there are several facets of my profession that I am passionate about, the two that really leap out for me are: the opportunity to continuously interact with new individuals — whether as clients, counterparts or peers during various transactions and then learning from them; and the ring-side seat that my role provides me to watch and learn from the younger generation of lawyers.“
Since 2015, Mithun has built a private equity focused real estate practice, winning major clients and working on some of the industry’s largest deals. He is responsible for human resources at the Mumbai office, overseeing recruitment and maximising the impact of staff performance reviews. His thoughtful approach to managing his team focuses on communicating expectations, listening to feedback and creating a supportive workplace culture.
Mithun also contributed to a report for pro bono organisation Acid Survivors Trust International, and provides career guidance and mentorship for law students.
What was his greatest achievement for a client: Mithun and his team executed an acquisition for a multinational corporate client in just 17 days, before a piece of restrictive legislation came into effect. This unexpected achievement won them long-term loyalty of the client.
Leadership qualities: Focused on how to best support and nurture the firm’s lawyers ǁ Optimism about the future of the profession and the potential of young lawyers ǁ His ability to take on challenging tasks indicates resilience ǁ An empathetic and approachable manager and colleague ǁ Using communication and compassion to influence those around him
Nisha Kaur Uberoi
Partner and National Head, Competition Law Practice, Trilegal
Started practice: 2002
Practice area: Competition Law
“I believe that one can only be as good as one's team… Besides having an open-door policy and one-on-one discussions on mentoring or feedback, I also try and be there for team members when they need me personally and not just professionally…to encourage them and provide opportunities to interface with clients and the regulator - there is no back office team - the entire team is front-facing.”
Nisha has been instrumental to the rapid expansion of Trilegal’s recognised competition practice, winning high-profile and complex client matters after just two and a half years.
She is receptive to the differences in capabilities and needs of individuals in her team. She focuses on bringing equality to the legal profession, and has worked to ensure her firm has one of the highest women-to-men ratios in the Indian legal market. Her pro bono work also has a strong emphasis on making access to legal education more inclusive to everyone in her community.
What was her greatest achievement for a client: Defending the merger between Ultratech Cement and Binani Cement, executed under India’s new insolvency and bankruptcy regime.
Leadership qualities: Creates opportunities and nurtures young lawyers ǁ Shows integrity in her pursuit of equal opportunities ǁ Open-minded and inclusive of people’s different strengths ǁ Resilient in pursuing goals through challenging circumstances ǁ Has a clear vision for the future of the profession