(Reuters) – Dentons said on Monday it is launching a joint venture with Indian law firm Link Legal, giving the global law firm a foothold in India’s huge but previously fragmented legal market. .
The merger will add 130 lawyers in Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad to Dentons’ large law firm, while giving Link Legal access to Dentons’ platform of more than 20,000 experts in more than 80 countries.
Link Legal’s clients include Air India, UK engineering group Doncasters and Singapore textile manufacturer Indorama Corp, according to its executives. The firm also advises private equity groups and Indian startups.
Dentons said the agreement is the first time a global law firm has tied up with a law firm in India. Link Legal will change its name to Dentons Link Legal. Dentons chairman Joe Andrew said the suite would be launched “within the next couple of months.”
A 1961 law prohibits non-Indian law firms from operating in the country. But the firms said Dentons Link Legal will continue to be run by Indian lawyers and retain local control over loan rates and recruitment.
The forum was created to connect Link Legal “where the same people are still in power,” said its co-managing partner Nusrat Hassan.
“We don’t see any legal obstacles,” Hassan said.
To clients, Dentons appears to be “one firm, but from a legal perspective, we’re completely separate,” Andrew said.
In the 1990s, the Reserve Bank of India, the country’s central bank, allowed three international firms — White & Case, Ashurst and Chadbourne & Parke — to open and operate as what they called “liaison offices” to advise clients on commercial matters without representing them in the courts.
But those offices were shut down in 2009 by the Bombay High Court, which ruled that the 1961 law applied to litigation and commercial matters.
In 2018, the Supreme Court of India upheld that decision and warned that foreign lawyers could practice in India on a “fly-in-fly-out basis,” which they could advising clients on international legal matters and matters relating to the laws of other countries.
“Dentons can do international work, we can do domestic work,” said Atul Sharma, Link Legal’s managing partner.
India is poised to overtake China as the world’s largest economy next year, according to a United Nations report released in July. Economists at Morgan Stanley said in August that India will emerge as Asia’s fastest growing economy by 2022-2023 due to economic policy reforms, a young workforce and business investments.
Dentons has long operated a Swiss verein business structure, allowing its international branches to operate under a shared banner as separate legal entities. Profit sharing is limited but so is taxation across international jurisdictions.
US courts have ignored Dentons’ insistence that its various branches be separated. The US International Trade Commission and Ohio state courts have ruled that Dentons ignored customer disputes between its US and Canadian branches in a patent case, leading to a legal ruling $32 million the industry is still competitive.
An Ohio court denied Dentons’ request to overturn the $32 million judgment
India likely to emerge as Asia’s fastest growing economy by 2022-23, says Morgan Stanley
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