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Hold me closer, tiny law firm

Posted by: Laurence Simons 28/08/12

Just as London's Magic Circle firms are having their heels snapped at by the rascally puppies that are large corporate mergers, a similar puppy-heel-biting trifecta is going on with boutique law firms in India. And it could result in a radically different legal skyline in just three or four years' time.

The main issue is this: boutique firms are on the rapid rise, and they are winning big corporate contracts with their flexible start up-style pricing policies. Let's take a look at the figures: according to Indiana University's Maurer School of Law, there are around 210 corporate law firms in India. About a hundred have only existed since 2000. A further 47 have only been knocking around for five years. That equals a lot of tiny, fresh-out-the-wrapper corporate law firms, fighting very aggressively on price.

But while big firms may be feeling the frustration of losing out to small boutiques who undercut them financially in the here and now, it could all be signs of a maturing market that only fully ripens in the next decade. The corporate legal market in India only really kicked off about ten years ago, and in ten years' time these boutiques could well be behemoths themselves.

And, with luck, India could be the new Africa. "When India opens up the legal profession for international practice," said former general counsel Mysore Prasanna, speaking to Mint, "all those start-up law firms - which have by then clocked three, four years of experience - will be up for phenomenal alliances."

To find out more about the market, contact Laurence Simons India office