Dentons partners with Indian law firm Link Legal

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(Reuters) – Dentons said on Monday it was launching a combination with Indian law firm Link Legal, giving the global law firm a nationwide presence in India’s vast but historically isolated legal market.

The combination will add 130 lawyers in Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad to Dentons’ extensive legal franchise, while allowing Link Legal to tap into Dentons’ platform of over 20,000 professionals in over 80 countries.

Link Legal’s clients include leading airline Air India, British engineering group Doncasters and Singapore-based textile maker Indorama Corp, according to its executives. The firm also advises private equity groups and Indian start-ups.

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Dentons said the deal marks the first time an international law firm has partnered with a law firm in India. Link Legal will change its name to Dentons Link Legal. Dentons Global President Joe Andrew said the suit would be launched “within the next two months”.

A 1961 law prohibits non-Indian law firms from practicing in the country. But the firms said Dentons Link Legal will still be run by Indian lawyers, who will retain local control over billing rates and recruitment.

The combination is structured so that Link Legal “continues to be owned by the same people”, said its co-manager Nusrat Hassan.

“We don’t see any regulatory hurdles,” Hassan said.

To customers, Dentons appears to be “one company, but from a regulatory perspective we’re still very separate,” Andrew said.

In the 1990s, the Reserve Bank of India, the country’s central bank, allowed three international companies – White & Case, Ashurst and Chadbourne & Parke – to open and operate what they called “offices of liaison” to advise clients on transactional matters without representing them in court.

But those offices were closed in 2009 by the Bombay High Court, which ruled that the 1961 law applied to both litigation and settlement cases.

In 2018, India’s Supreme Court upheld the ruling with a caveat that foreign lawyers can practice in India on a “round trip” basis, allowing them to advise clients on issues. international law and on matters involving the laws of other countries.

“Dentons can do the international work, we can do the national work,” said Atul Sharma, managing partner of Link Legal.

India is set to overtake China as the world’s most populous country next year, according to a United Nations report released in July. Morgan Stanley economists said in August that India could become Asia’s strongest economy in 2022-23 thanks to economic policy reforms, a young workforce and business investment.

Dentons has long used a Swiss verein business structure, allowing its international branches to operate under a common banner as largely separate legal entities. Profit sharing is limited, but so is tax exposure in international jurisdictions.

US courts have not always been receptive to Dentons’ insistence on separating its various branches. The U.S. International Trade Commission and Ohio state courts have both ruled that Dentons wrongly ignored customer disputes between its U.S. and Canadian branches in a patent case, leading to a $32 million malpractice verdict that the company is still contesting.

Read more:

Ohio’s highest court rejects Dentons’ bid to overturn $32 million malpractice verdict

India could become Asia’s strongest economy in 2022-23, Morgan Stanley says

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David Thomas

Thomson Reuters

David Thomas reports on legal activity, including law firm strategy, hiring, mergers and litigation. He is based in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @DaveThomas5150.

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