ALMT Legal had a traumatic launch in January 2000, when the former firm of its four founding partners, Singhania & Co, launched an Indian legal action against them for breach of contract. The four promptly filed their own claim in London for constructive dismissal. Happily, both disputes were settled out of court and the firm has since gone from strength to strength.
Although offering a full-service capability, ALMT's three main areas of practice are corporate/commercial, litigation and private client. It claims to be the only London-based Indian law firm. Established in Hammersmith by Shalini Agarwal, Manoj Ladwa, Ananjan Mitter and Sameer Tapia, it largely targets non-Indian organisations looking to invest in India. Agarwal says: "The right opportunity, the right team and our personal ambition prompted the launch, with the aim of supporting English law firms, not competing with them."
Ladwa only stayed at the firm for a little over two years, before leaving in March 2003 to set up his own practice. He has since been replaced as an equity partner by Sakate Khaitan, a former Khaitan & Co lawyer. Agarwal says that more lateral hires are planned. "We're in discussions at the moment with a prominent lawyer at another law firm in India," she says.
An office was opened in Mumbai in September 2001, headed by Mitter. The firm has also been building up a network of six regional affiliated offices across India. "We have lawyers in each of the six affiliates who handle all our regional work, under our care. Local language skills are very important so we have individuals who can liaise with local organisations on our behalf. They are under the supervision of one partner," says Agarwal.
Although the firm is based in London, Tapia says that its client base is not restricted to UK organisations, but covers all of Europe and stretches as far as the Far East. He says that 50 per cent of its work is non-UK-derived.
With the European market in mind, the firm is in the process of establishing a presence in Paris via an external consultant and is looking to do the same on the east coast of the US. "We're getting all our infrastructure and procedures in place in anticipation of the upturn in the global economy that we expect to happen," he says.
One area that is already benefiting from an upturn, and on which ALMT Legal is focusing as part of its growth strategy, is outsourcing. Agarwal believes it is an area of growth where the on-the-ground capabilities of ALMT's lawyers offer considerable growth potential and she envisages further recruitment in both London and India to accommodate it. "We're operating in quite a niche market and so far our reception has been very positive. It is up to us to make the most of market opportunities, and that's what we are doing with outsourcing," she says.