The world is seeing an IPO frenzy at the moment, and India is no exception. According to Bloomberg, companies globally have raised a record $476 billion as of the third week of September, and India’ share is $10.2 billion. At least 64 Indian businesses have hit the equity capital markets in 2021, taking the S&P BSE Sensex to a record, Bloomberg added.
Notable issuers have included food-delivery startup Zomato Ltd, which raised $1.3 billion in a July listing. Budget hotel chain startup Oyo is seeing a $1.2 billion IPO, while digital payments firm Paytm is set to raise $2.2 billion in a listing at the end of October. The Indian government is currently in the market as well, looking to list 10 percent of the state-owned Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) for a prob-able $12 billion, which would make it the country’s biggest IPO to date.
The boom is not easing up any time soon. Goldman Sachs calculations believe that as many as 150 private Indian firms may list on the stock market in the next 36 months, bringing with them some $400 billion of market value.
What this means is that capital markets lawyers are currently working overtime, and possibly borderline exhausted. This was brought into focus in the lead up to the abovementioned LIC IPO, normally a prestige listing that law firms vie for.
Reuters reported in the middle of September that domestic law firms were initially shying away from advising the government on the LIC IPO, deterred by the low fees on offer in relation to the kind of work that needs to be done. Nitin Potdar, an M&A partner at J. Sagar Associates, told Reuters that LIC’s massive size and complex business structure and products would make it a veritable “nightmare” for lawyers to draft the prospectus. (However, a week later, four law firms, including Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas and Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas, bid for the work after the government made the fee payment structure more attractive.)
Lee Ignatius, co-founder and head of Private Practice Group at Vahura, a legal and governance Recruitment provider, has noticed that the jump in deals has led to a surge in demand for experienced lawyers on both the law firm and in-house sides.
This has presented a need, Ignatius says, for “high engagement specialist practices, deal teams, and bench strength which have been key drivers for the uptick in hiring legal talent in-house and in law firms,” he says, noting that this trend is most visible at mid-senior levels.
India’s in-house sector in particular has experienced an increase in demand for senior legal talent from across deals, business and compliance and policy backgrounds as fresh investments and foreign capital flow in.
“We’ve also seen a surge in secondment or project-based staffing to meet the additional bandwidth required,” he says.
While top talent is in clear demand, law firms are also increasingly looking for lawyers with the ability to manage matters, deals or teams independently, as they will have to hit the ground running.
“Given the fast-paced nature of business, the need is to find professionals who can plug and play. At the senior level, the ability to deepen relationships, grow new clients and thought leadership is becoming more important. In the in-house context – stakeholder management, being a business enabler and having a strategic problem-solving mindset while also being hands-on are now becoming more valued,” Ignatius says.
But how law firms manage their often-elastic staffing needs is another complexity to navigate.
“The challenge presented to law firms is to quickly scale up in a market where their clients are also looking to attract talent from across their pool of external advisors -- including law firms -- as their businesses look to scale up,” Ignatius says, noting while firms try hard to retain talent, at present there is a slight gap between demand and supply of talent in the market.
But while there are kinks to be ironed out, there is little doubt that the trend will continue well into the future.
“With corporate India continuing to draw huge rounds of investment quarter upon quarter, and valuations at the bourses drawing new highs, we will continue to see business and their external advisors continue to seek talent across levels,” he says.
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