Dentons announces ‘historic’ combination with India’s Link Legal

Move sees Dentons become first international law firm to combine with a law firm in India

Dentons has announced a combination with India’s Link Legal, in a move the BigLaw player says marks the first time an international law firm has combined with a law firm in India. 

Dentons said the move would give it ‘first-mover advantage and a competitive edge in international panel competitions’. 

Until now Dentons has operated India desks from countries including Singapore and Poland but has not had a physical presence in the country, which historically has an isolated legal market. The combination with Link Legal, which will change its name to Dentons Link Legal, will add more than 160 lawyers in Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad to Dentons' platform of more than 20,000 professionals in 80-plus countries. 

“India will be the most populous country in the world next year with a fast-growing economy making it an increasingly important market for our clients around the world," said Elliott Portnoy, global CEO of Dentons. "This combination will allow Dentons to connect clients to talent in India and provide a seamless one firm experience in more than 200 locations around the globe." 

Dentons Link Legal Indian lawyers will represent clients inside India and Dentons lawyers will represent Link Legal’s clients outside of India, becoming one firm consistent with the rules and regulations of India, Dentons said. 

"This is history in the making in India because this is not a joint venture, not a “best friends” relationship, not a “referral agreement,” but a combination as Dentons has done around the world," said Joe Andrew, global chairman of Dentons. "The combination in India makes Dentons a first-mover in a market that matters to our clients." 

Link Legal is a full service law firm with more than 40 partners and 130 lawyers practising in areas including infrastructure, corporate, litigation, finance and technology. The firm has the third highest per capita percentage of Chambers and Legal 500 rankings in India and counts Air India, the State Bank of India and Rolls-Royce among its clients. 

India’s legal sector remains one of the most restricted of any major market economy as a result of a 1961 law that prohibits non-Indian law firms from practicing in the country. 

But Atul Sharma, managing partner of Link Legal, stressed that the firm will still be owned by the same people. 

"The combination allows us to be both global and local while continuing to be wholly owned, controlled and managed by Indian lawyers at Link Legal in India," he said.

Dentons uses a “polycentric” structure based on a Swiss verein that allows it to enter new jurisdictions by combining with local firms and its various arms to operate as mainly separate legal entities under a shared banner. 

The firm has made more than 50 ‘whole firm’ combinations since its launch in 2013 and said that scaling in priority markets continues to be a core part of its strategy. 

Dentons expects the combination will Link Legal will launch ‘in the coming months’ following approval by the firm’s partners. 

It follows Dentons announcing a series of tie-ups over the past few years, notably across Africa and South America; becoming the first global firm to establish a presence in Bolivia last spring. 

Email your news and story ideas to: [email protected]