Following months of research and analysis, we present the firms below as the domestic leaders in banking and finance, competition, dispute resolution, IP, M&A, natural resources and TMT law.     

Banking & Finance – Amarchand & Mangaldas & Suresh A Shroff & Co

In February, Amarchand stamped its authority on the Indian banking and finance world by advising private sector lender Axis Bank in its $1 billion qualified institutions placement, the largest transaction of its kind in Indian history. The firm’s standing in this space was already well established however, following work for Citifinancial Consumer Finance, Citibank and IndusInd Bank in 2012.

Sources were quick to praise managing partner Shardul Shroff for his work in this area, which includes all kinds of borrowing and lending transactions for the likes of Barclays, Rabobank and Standard Chartered, as well as matters relating to bank loan recovery actions, debt reconstruction proceedings before the Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction, and asset reconstruction and securitisation under the SARFAESI Act. Gunjan Shah also received several recommendations, having acted as counsel for Unitech in connection with a six billion rupee term loan facility provided by Indiabulls Financial Services.  

Competition – J Sagar Associates

Part the firm’s regulatory and policy department, JSA’s competition and antitrust lawyers have close ties to the formation of the practice area in India, having assisted the Competition Commission of India (CCI) in drafting statutory regulations, participated in Indian and overseas in competition seminars and CCI advocacy and public awareness programmes, and sat on IBA task forces and committees on Indian competition law.

The firm is no less active on the deal front. In 2012, JSA lawyers acted for a wide range of domestic and international clients in CCI investigations, merger control filings, vertical agreements and compliance and auditing matters, including Simon & Schuster, United Airlines, Indian Oil Corporation and Arshiya Rail Infrastructure. In the past month, partner Amitabh Kumar has advised Berkshire Hathaway and 3G Special Situations Fund in obtaining CCI approval for their proposed global acquisition of HJ Heinz, as well as helping Herba Foods gain approval for its acquisition of Taraori Rice Mills.

Dispute Resolution – AZB & Partners

Well known for its work in the transactional space, AZB Partners has witnessed an explosion in disputes matters over the past year as the turmoil affecting global financial markets impacts on Indian contracts. AZB lawyers are regularly engaged in the civil, criminal, commercial and constitutional law disputes in the Supreme Court, the High Courts and various smaller courts and tribunals throughout India. The firm is also regularly engaged in arbitration and mediation proceedings and negotiations on behalf of domestic and international clients.

Sources particularly note the work of Shreyas Jayasimha, who was counsel to London Court of International Arbitration in India when it appeared as an intervener in the Balco case in 2012.

Intellectual Property – Anand and Anand

Perhaps the only law firm in the world to have launched its own IP comic book project and board game, Anand and Anand consistently attracts praise from sources for its innovative approach to its chosen field. The firm played a central role in the formulation of India’s trademark rules and enjoys one of the highest filing and prosecution success ratios in trademark matters in India.

IP dispute resolution was the area most frequently highlighted by sources in our research. Recent cases include the representation of Microsoft and the Business Software Alliance in a series of high-profile lawsuits against the use of pirated software, and work on behalf of SERGI Transformer Explosion Prevention Technologies in a series of patent infringement matters.   

Mergers & Acquisitions – Amarchand & Mangaldas & Suresh A Shroff & Co

The only firm to come out on top in two of the voting in two practice areas, Amarchand’s record for M&A over the past year has been justifiably lauded by respondents to our survey.

In mergermarket’s global M&A round-up for 2012, Amarchand was the only Indian firm to be mentioned by the region’s top legal advisers both by total value of M&A deals conducted over the course of the year. A major contributor to this success was the New Delhi office’s work with in Vedanta’s $14 billion restructuring of Sterlite Industries and Sesa Goa, led by Shardul Shroff. During 2012, Shroff also advised PVR Limited in drafting and negotiating the underlying transaction documents, open offer documents and other open offer related agreements in its $73.5 million acquisition of Cinemax, and negotiated and finalised the share subscription agreements with each of its two private equity investors: Multiples and L Capital. Cyril Shroff in Mumbai and Reeba Chacko in Bangalore were also very highly praised in our research

Natural Resources – Trilegal

As renewable power becomes an increasingly high priority for policymakers in India, Trilegal has emerged as a firm at the cutting edge of this rapidly expanding sector. Internationally recognised for his oil and gas and energy work, Akshay Jaitly led the Trilegal team in advising BLP Wind Project in its deal to develop a 16 MW project in Amberi, as well as acting for Indo Rama Renewables (Jath) in its entry into the renewables market.

The firm was also regularly instructed by banks and investors in connection with coal related transactions over the course of the year, including acting for ICICI Bank in the GVK group's $1.25 billion acquisition of a majority stake in coal and infrastructure development projects in the Galilee Basin of Queensland, Australia.  

Telecoms Media & Technology – HSA Advocates

HSA’s TMT group is notable for the loyalty it inspires in clients; Harris Communications, Verint Systems Israel, VMware Software and First Data retain the firm on all of their day-to-day operations in India. Notable recent engagements include assisting Virgin Mobile India in various statutory and regulatory issues with respect to its entry into the telecom sector and setting up of its operations in the country, and advising Valuable Group on the legal and regulatory framework governing broadcasting and cable television services in India.