HEADQUARTERED in Mumbai, India, Majmudar & Partners' international focus has enabled it to evolve into one of India's premier law firms, representing the who's who of banks, companies and financial institutions.
Founded in 1943, the firm built a traditional business representing banks and financial institutions. However, with the liberalization of the Indian economy in 1991, the firm developed other practice areas such as corporate/M&A, tax, technology and intellectual property. In the past decade, the firm has embraced global best practices, which has helped cement its position as a top-tier law firm in India.
Majmudar & Partners' Managing Partner, Akil Hirani, cited in Chambers Asia as one of the "most in-demand legal practitioners" in India, talked to Howard Stock about the firm and its people.
YOU'VE BEEN NAMED ONE OF INDIA'S MOST IN-DEMAND LAWYERS. HOW DID YOU EARN THIS HONOR, AND HOW DOES YOUR EXPERTISE MESH WITH THAT OF YOUR PARTNERS?
I have been practising since 1992, when the practice of law in India was very different from what it is today. In early 1994, I decided to garner international experience, and got admitted to practice in England and Wales. Then, in July 1994, I appeared for the California bar exams, and on passing them, I was invited to do a legal clerkship in the courts in San Jose, CA. This was a game changer for me. For the first time, I was exposed to the speed at which things moved in U.S. courts.
On my return to India at the end of 1996 after my stints in California and London, I built out the cross-border corporate/M&A and tax practices at Majmudar & Partners. My approach was practical and solutions driven and clients really appreciated it. Moreover, there was a dearth of lawyers who could advise on both the U.S. and Indian side of transactions, and more importantly, write in a lucid, easy to understand manner. These attributes catapulted me into the limelight; transactions flowed and so did the accolades.
Additionally, I was invited to speak at different forums, including the Practising Law Institute in New York and at International Bar Association conferences, which gave me great exposure. Some years ago, the Deal magazine in New York ran a story on M&A lawyers under 40 and featured me in it. All of this has helped me in being regarded as one of India's most in demand lawyers. Most of the partners at Majmudar & Partners have international study and/or work experience too. As a result, the firm is able to offer a quality work product across the board.
WHICH OF MAJMUDAR'S MANY AREAS OF EXPERTISE ARE CALLED UPON MOST OFTEN?
Finance, M&A, tax, technology and work with complex disputes is what Majmudar is most known for. The firm is not a volumes driver, but focuses on high-end work.
India has a myriad laws and regulations with varied interpretations. In one transaction, there was a tricky environmental law issue. Here, the Indian target company was leaking a substance into the ground that was banned globally but not in India. Therefore, we had a piquant situation where the Indian company was doing nothing wrong, but the foreign client could not close the deal because of the global ban on the substance that was leaking. Eventually, after six months of ping pong, we finally counseled the foreign client that an environmental cleanup was not feasible, and that they should settle for an unlimited indemnity. This worked.
Indian employment laws can also cause some difficulties. In one situation, an acquisition resulted in employees being laid off, which required dealing with a labor union. Although it was very tough to convince the union leaders initially, we eventually managed to bring them around and achieved an effective settlement for the client.
These days anti-corruption is a big theme, and a number of Indian companies doing deals in the cross-border space are being subjected to significant scrutiny under various international laws on corruption that have an extra territorial reach. Reconciling the U.S. FCPA and the U.K. Bribery Act with Indian anti-corruption laws has been challenging and gratifying.