(Gawrav Sinha)

Am Law 100 firms are carving out an ever greater piece of the Indian market, winning more and greater deals and building their reputations among Indian clients, according to London-based research firm RSG Consulting.

In a ranking of the top India practices among foreign law firms, RSG found that U.S. firms now hold five of the top 10 spots, up from four at the time of the last ranking in 2013. One U.S. firm—Chicago-based Baker & McKenzie—managed to crack the top five, edging out Clifford Chance to come in at number four.

“Compared to the 2013 ranking, where the top 10 was mostly dominated by U.K. firms and the top five places were held by U.K. firms, this suggests the U.S. firms are increasing their presence in the Indian market,” RSG said.

The research is part of RSG’s biannual report on the Indian legal market, which includes also a ranking of the country’s top 40 domestic firms. RSG asked 514 “major legal purchasers” in India and 26 Indian law firms which foreign firms they felt had the best reputations in the country and which they’d instructed over the past 18 months. The consultancy also analyzed league tables from Thomson Reuters, Mergermarket and Bloomberg for deal activity over the past two years. RSG gave the firms scores based on the number of mentions by clients and Indian law firms for best reputation and instructions, as well as one that incorporated the total value and volume of deals on which they advised.

Linklaters took the top spot in RSG’s ranking, while Allen & Overy and Herbert Smith Freehills tied for number two. Clifford Chance came in at number five and Slaughter and May at number nine. The other five spots went to U.S. firms. Aside of Baker & McKenzie, White & Case, Davis Polk & Wardwell and Jones Day held the 6th, 7th and 8th positions, respectively. Shearman & Sterling was number 10, bumping Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, which occupied that spot in 2013, to number 11.

A noticeable absence from the top 10, and the only member of the Magic Circle to not appear, was Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. It ranked 13th in the latest RSG report, falling all the way from number five two years ago. “It has a long established and top-tier India practice, but does not receive the breadth of recognition and high visibility as its traditional Magic Circle peers amongst Indian clients,” RSG said. Freshfields declined to comment for this story when contacted by The Asian Lawyer.

Herbert Smith Freehills, meanwhile, jumped two spots from number four in 2013, beating out Magic Circle firms Clifford Chance and Slaughter and May among those in the top 10. “Its long-term investment and commitment to the Indian legal market means many Indian law firms, in particular, name it as the foreign firm with the best reputation in India,” RSG said.

RSG’s ranking includes U.S. firms that are well known for their India practices. Indeed, Baker & McKenzie, Jones Day and White & Case all ranked in the top 10 in the consultancy’s last report as well (they were numbers 6, 7 and 9, respectively). But there are others who may not immediately spring to mind when considering the Indian market. Wall Street firm Davis Polk jumped from number 17 in 2013 and earned the biggest score awarded by RSG for deals—including number one-ranked Linklaters.

While they didn’t make the top 10, Weil, Gotshal & Manges and Sullivan & Cromwell also showed significant improvement in the rankings. Sullivan & Cromwell registered the biggest gain, rising to number 14 from 33, and Weil moved up to 17 from 25. Notably, Davis Polk, Weil, Sullivan & Cromwell and Shearman all had roles on the $4 billion acquisition of India’s Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd. by Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. last year. Davis Polk acted for Ranbaxy’s owner, Daiichi Sankyo Co. Ltd., and Sullivan & Cromwell advised the company’s financial adviser on the deal, Goldman Sachs & Co. Shearman represented Sun Pharma, while Weil was counsel to that company’s financial adviser, Evercore Partners.

Among the other leading U.S. firms in the ranking, Shearman had previously been at number 14. DLA Piper held steady at 11, tying with Skadden, while Latham & Watkins kept its place at number 15. U.S. firms dominate in terms of total number of firms operating in the market. According to RSG, Indian clients listed 56 different U.S. firms for either their reputation in India or as a firm they’d recently instructed, versus 36 for U.K. firms.

Still, the long history of U.K. firms in India because of the country’s colonial past means that their position in the market isn’t so easily pushed aside. While there are many more U.S. firms than U.K. firms, RSG notes that there’s an even split when it comes to which firms that clients say they’ve instructed in the past 12 months.

“U.K. firms still come out on top when it comes to both reputation across the market and recognition by Indian firms,” RSG said.

Email: tbrennan@alm.com.