Editor’s note: John Yates, Morris, Manning & Martin, LLP partner and an internationally recognized technology attorney, is in India this week on a “tech trek” looking to generate business opportunities for the Atlanta and southeast technology sector. He is posting blog and video entries at . The law firm has offices in Atlanta, Raleigh-Durham, Savannah and Washington, D.C. Local Tech Wire will be following Yates’ trip and posting Yates’ observations and news.
DELHI, India – I’m spending another day in Delhi at the ITechLaw conference. This group is composed of international technology lawyers from throughout the world – great contacts for my and me.
The attorneys in attendance are focused on representing tech companies. With the exception of the Indian lawyers, everyone is singing the same tune – there are very few private equity and VC deals being done with tech companies, the public markets are frozen around the world, and there is little optimism about a tech turnaround any time soon.
On the other hand, India is seen as a bright spot in an otherwise bleak global economy. It has a great long term market for selling tech products and services – and it’s growing at 7-8 percent this year, so just imagine the growth when times improve!
This conference has highlighted some interesting contrasts between practicing law in the fast-growing country of India vs. the no-growth United States. Here are a few highlights:
• Despite having 1.2 billion people, India has very few law firms (some would say this is a good thing!).
• The largest law firm in India has around 400 attorneys. The next largest is probably around 200, and then the size falls off significantly.
• Most Indian lawyers are generalists – they don’t specialize in any one area of the law.
• By statute, an Indian law firm can have no more than 20 equity partners. This substantially limits the size of law firms.
• Non-Indian lawyers are prohibited from practicing law in India. There are proposals to change this monopoly, but it will take time to open the Indian legal profession to outsiders.
• When Indian law firms begin to grow, the limitations on the number of partners often results in a split off of attorneys to form a new firm.
• Indian law firms are prohibited from advertising, having websites that promote their firms, or placing entries in international law directories.
• There are very few patents filed in India in relation to the United States. Despite the large number of IT services companies, there is very little innovation that is patented.
• Lawyers are activists in certain sections of the country. The news just reported a clash between police and lawyers in Chennai (formerly Madras) and a number of lawyers were injured.
• Many Indian law firms have only one name – the first and last name of the founding partner. Indian lawyers have a healthy ego like their U.S. brethren.
• Several major Indian law firms are passed down from family member to family member. This is consistent with the business model in India.
In summary, Indian lawyers are very similar to their counterparts in the U.S., with some interesting differences that limit the ability of Indian firms to grow.
We have one more day in Delhi. We’ll then fly to Mumbai for the direct flight back to Atlanta (thank you Delta!).