Head of the international practice:
Total number of lawyers: 250
Total number of partners: 38
Main practice areas: Banking, corporate, dispute resolution, employment, IT, real estate
Number of offices: eight
Locations: Bangalore, Kolkata, Chandigarh, Chennai, Hyderabad, Mumbai (two offices), New Delhi
Fox Mandal Little (FML) is a rare thing in the Indian legal market – a firm resulting from a merger. Unlike other legal systems, the Indian market has yet to catch merger fever.
“People don’t believe it’s happened. They think Indians can’t merge,” says Som Mandal, head of FML’s international practice.
As first reported by The Lawyer (24 July), India’s oldest law firms Little & Co and Fox Mandal merged to create the country’s largest firm. FML has 38 partners, 250 fee-earners and offices in seven cities: Bangalore, Kolkata, Chandigarh, Chennai, Hyderabad, Mumbai and New Delhi.
Mandal explains that the merger made sense for both firms. “We [Fox Mandal] were spread out all over the country, but our Mumbai office was smaller than it should be. Instead of growing organically we decided to grown by merger,” he says.
Little & Co, which was based solely in Mumbai, had suffered in recent years, losing partners both to rivals and to retirement.
So the firms decided to merge and, although Little & Co was the smaller firm, Mandal is full of praise for his merger partner. “They have an impeccable reputation and are essentially an outstanding firm,” he says.
The union brings together two of India’s oldest law firms. Little & Co is the oldest, established in 1846 when it acted for the East India Company. Meanwhile, Fox Mandal’s history dates back to 1896.
Mandal says the long history of the firms, coupled with their traditional outlooks, makes them a perfect fit. However, the merger shows that FML is definitely looking towards the future and is encouraging the liberalisation of India’s legal market.
As first reported by The Lawyer (31 July), FML has written to the Indian government to encourage it to open the market to foreign firms. Ideas put forward by FML include suggesting that the Ministry of Law and Justice, along with the Attorney General’s Office and leading law firms, form a committee to draw up rules for international lawyers. Other subjects tackled include compulsory professional negligence insurance for all law firms and guidelines for advertising in legal directories.
Mandal is also keen for the firm to capitalise on India’s strong economy with further expansion, although he is keeping his cards close to his chest for the time being.
Prior to the merger Little & Co had a close relationship with DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary. So is this going to survive the formation of FML? “The relationship was not on paper, it was an informal relationship. FML is a firm that wants relationships with all international firms,” says Mandal.