Bitter leadership dispute at India’s L&L Partners sparks 21-partner breakaway firm

Top New Delhi corporate lawyer Mohit Saraf unveils ‘modern’ and ‘inclusive’ Saraf & Partners
Birds flying over India Gate, New Delh

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The former senior partner and co-founder of L&L Partners has split from the leading Indian firm with a team of 21 partners and nearly 100 professionals to form a new practice.

The establishment of Saraf & Partners follows a bitter dispute between Mohit Saraf and L&L’s other co-founder, Rajiv Luthra, which saw Luthra expel Saraf from the firm only for that decision to be stayed by the High Court subject to ongoing arbitration proceedings.

The dispute between the only equity partners of two of the three legal entities that make up L&L concerned what Saraf described in a statement as “numerous differences... in respect sharing of ownership of the firm with younger partners”. In June, the two sides agreed to an interim settlement before the Delhi High Court under which Saraf would leave the firm on receipt of a $7m payment.

The court order set out the terms of the split, including how clients and data should be shared and directed that both sides ‘are restrained from doing any act, deed or thing harming the professional reputation or causing any unlawful loss to the other’.

Saraf & Partners will cover a range of practice areas, including M&A, restructuring, private equity and venture capital investments, banking and finance, insolvency and bankruptcy, tax, and corporate disputes. 

 “The legal industry is evolving at a tremendous pace, making it crucial for Indian law firms to reinvent, advance, and adapt themselves to these changing times,” said Saraf. “While the split from L&L was a major contributor to the inception of Saraf & Partners, one of the core values being offered by this firm is the modern ideology and inclusiveness in the management of clients and business partners.” 

At inception, a third of the firm’s equity will belong to Saraf, with another third being held by other leading partners who are moving across to the practice, Saraf explained. The final third has been designated for the talent acquisition process the firm plans to roll out in order to begin its expansion strategy. 

Saraf said each of the firm’s 21 partners will play a “big role” at the management level, adding that the firm’s mantra was to build “an institution where everyone feels a sense of belongingness and loyalty”. 

According to court documents, before the split L&L Partners employed 300 lawyers and 75 non-equity partners with a total fee income of $47m.

Luthra could not be reached for comment. 

In January 2015, India’s largest law firm, Amarchand & Mangaldas & Suresh A Shroff & Co, split after a legal battle between brothers and managing partners Shardul and Cyril Shroff to form the separate entities, Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas and Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co.

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