Elected in a crisis: tri-legal managing partners bet on growth
When Nishant Parikh and Sridhar Gorthi were elected co-managing partners of Indian law firm Trilegal, they had big plans for the firm’s strategic direction. What they didn’t expect, however, was that in April 2020, when their new roles kicked in, they would be neck and neck in crisis management.
Trilegal has become the second Indian firm to democratically elect new co-managers. The industry in India is made up mostly of family businesses, but Parikh, the former business manager of Trilegal, and Gorthi, a co-founding partner, were chosen by the firm’s partners to run its operations when the two founding managing partners have resigned. from the management position at the end of March 2020. At that time, Trilegal, which had 55 partners, already had an elected management committee consisting of seven board members, including Parikh, Gorthi and the two other co-founding partners of the firm, Rahul Matthan and Karan. Singh.
But barely 10 days after the election of its new leaders, the COVID-19 pandemic has taken hold in Asia. The virus first broke out in mainland China in December 2019 and just a month later the first cases of infection were reported in cities in Kerala, a state on India’s Malabar coast. In March, India was in total lockdown and the country has since suffered three waves of COVID-19, with around 43 million infections recorded so far.
“At that time, nobody had any idea how things were going to develop. We had to close our offices towards the end of March and move very quickly to a sort of work-from-home situation,” Parikh said.
As was the case in most countries around the world, Parikh and Gorthi did not expect the crisis to last this long. But at first, they decided to make predictions that might help Trilegal weather the storm.
“The storytelling and thinking process very quickly became a matter of survival, so we started by focusing on collecting bills because it was important to have as much money in the system as possible,” Parikh said. .
The company also decided to focus on retaining and hiring talent.
“The idea was to be nimble because the situation was changing every day, so we didn’t put our foot down to declare pay cuts or hiring freezes,” Gorthi said. “Instead, we doubled the raises and bonuses, and we kept that momentum going.”
As a result, and despite the pandemic, the firm increased the number of its partners by almost 40% in the first 18 months following their appointment. It added about 20 new partners – about half through internal promotions and the other half through side hires from competitors such as AZB & Partners; Cyril Amarcand Mangaldas; and Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas.
“At the start of the pandemic, obviously, capital markets were absolutely dead in the water,” Gorthi said. “We had a small capital market practice, but we decided to expand that practice early on and it really worked for us.”
Last year was a boom year for initial public offerings in India, propelled in part by the Chinese crackdown on tech companies in July, which prompted investors to look elsewhere for investment opportunities. Between January and October 2021, Indian companies raised around $9 billion, almost three times the $3.5 billion raised by 15 companies in 2020.
In October, Trilegal advised on the US$750 million IPO of Indian e-commerce company Nykaa. The deal team was led by partner Richa Choudhary, whom the firm had hired from AZB six months earlier. The company later also advised one of the country’s largest IPOs: Fintech company Paytm raised $2.5 billion, while Trilegal advised Chinese conglomerate Alibaba Group as an investor.
Trilegal has traditionally focused on advising foreign investors, but the firm has gradually shifted to balance its focus to include domestic clients. While in the past the company says it did around 70% of its work for overseas clients and only 30% for domestic clients, it has seen those proportions change and now the ratio is around 50-50. . Much of it, according to company executives, can be attributed to the growth of domestic companies, which have plenty of capital to invest and expand.
To meet these demands, Trilegal will also need to invest and grow further, according to its leaders.
“Critical mass and scale are very important here,” Parikh said. “It’s a key factor in winning and executing contracts. Having a large workforce is becoming more and more essential for the type of work we do – we need large teams for our business. The size of our teams is sometimes as large as 15 to 20 lawyers on a transaction. »
To illustrate how important this critical mass can be, Parikh said that to manage a recent insolvency case that involved US$15 billion in debt, the company had to mobilize its corporate, insolvency teams , restructuring and litigation, deploying around 70 lawyers on a single case.
The potential headcount increase will have to be weighed against the company’s decision on flexible working policies, Gorthi said. Trilegal has not yet instituted formal policies regarding this.
“We were hesitant to announce a policy because every six months we saw a shift or a shift in attitudes and culture,” Gorthi said. “But I think what we’ve seen is that over an extended period people really don’t need regulation because they can regulate themselves. So as long as the client’s job is done, we really don’t care about people getting back to the office.