Mr Cyril Shroff is the managing partner with over 38 years of experience in a range of areas, including corporate and securities law, disputes, banking, bankruptcy, infrastructure, private client, financial regulatory and others. He is consistently ranked as “star practitioner” in India by Chambers Global and often regarded as the “M&A King of India”. A thought leader and known for advising many first-of-its-kind transactions in India, he regularly gets recognised as an award-winning professional across various practices.
Which types of matters does your multidisciplinary practice encompass?
Our practice encompasses a wide ambit of complex transactions among others covering both domestic and cross-border mergers and acquisitions, antitrust advice, debt restructuring, project finance, IPOs for large corporates and corporate resolutions.
What has been the most memorable case you have worked on?
While as a firm we have seen the evolution of the legal industry in India and the birth and growth of large corporations, the case closest to my heart is that of Life Insurance Corporation of India v Escorts Limited and Others – the defining case on corporate democracy.
How do you establish a detailed understanding of a client’s business to advise them effectively?
As a firm, we emphasise client service. We make best effort to understand our clients’ business and their business goals so that we can provide client-centric advice to further their business interests. We also work on building trust with our clients and providing them with candid opinions/ feedback as and when the situation requires.
How have clients sought to continue transactions during covid-19 lockdown? Have there been any notable positive and/or negative changes in how clients approach deals?
Most of the deals that we have been engaged in during the lockdown were deals which had commenced prior to its imposition. During the first two months of lockdown, investors and markets were in shock and the number of deals being done had contracted. However, in the last few months, we have seen deal making pick up as values have now corrected after the initial shock caused due to the imposition of lockdown. In relation to deal making, one of the most notable changes is that it has moved from a physical realm to a virtual realm. Deal makers are developing new skills, most notably, the skill-set to build trust between parties in a virtual environment.
In your opinion, how will covid-19 change the M&A market in India in the long-term?
The humanitarian crisis of covid-19 has been a black swan event, the ramifications of which have been felt by all industries, individuals and economies not only in India but across the globe. One of the changes that has been much discussed, and I have seen personally is that of de-globalisation. Industries in India and across the world are looking at making investments into their domestic markets to reduce the reliance on existing global supply chains. Further, I see a consolidation of businesses in India.
How can company leaders seek to optimise their company’s resilience in a post-covid-19 world?
The covid-19 pandemic has made company leaders everywhere question their business models. This has been true for us as well. Up to a week before the pandemic, working remotely seemed impossible. However, post the imposition of the lockdown, we have all been able to work seamlessly and efficiently from remote locations. Accordingly, as we head to a new normal, one advice to company leaders to optimise their company’s resilience in a post-covid-19 world is to keep their wits about them, be adaptable, flexible and focus on learnability and upskilling.
How is technology driving growth in M&A?
As corporations become larger, they are introducing technology into existing business models and are moving to a hybrid model of doing business. Artificial intelligence and other tech tools are being used to streamline the way business is carried on. Investors have recognised the same thing, as evidenced by quantum of investments/ acquisitions in the tech/ fin-tech space. Consequently, the technology that is rolling out is creating a disruption and changing the way business is done. As a firm, we too recognise the importance of implementing technology in the legal field and have started a legal tech incubator known as Prarambh with this objective.
What advice would you offer to junior lawyers looking to pursue an M&A practice in the current climate?
I would like to tell young lawyers that they are in the right industry. Irrespective of a pandemic or a depression, legal services will always be of relevance. As we move to a new normal, young lawyers should not only hone their legal skills but also focus on upskilling and being adaptable in order to be relevant and stay ahead of the curve.
Mr Cyril Shroff is managing partner at the firm. He has over 37 years of experience in a range of areas, including corporate and securities law, disputes, banking, bankruptcy, infrastructure, private client, financial regulatory and others. He is consistently ranked as “star practitioner” in India and often regarded as the “M&A King of India” by leading global publications. He routinely comments and advises on policy reforms in India, and was a member of the committee on corporate governance constituted by Indian regulator of securities market.
What motivated you to pursue a legal career?
I am a third-generation lawyer in my family. Since my childhood, dinner table conversations only revolved around the law and any important legal cases. Therefore, it was a natural progression for me to pursue a legal career.
What qualities do clients look for in an M&A lawyer?
In addition to the more obvious qualities – a good understanding of corporate laws and drafting skills – clients primarily look for good communication skills and commercial understanding from their M&A lawyer. They also expect them to be efficient, pragmatic and solution-oriented.
What are the main challenges you face today when negotiating complex deals?
I think one of the most important issues is the changing scenario in the Indian economy. It is not easy to predict the future. Therefore, it is all the more important for lawyers to be pragmatic.
What are the main challenges clients should be aware of when trying to conduct business in India?
While ease of doing business in India has generally improved over time, there are still challenges that are more sector or state-specific. With digitisation and single-window clearance of licences and permits, certain states have performed fairly well. However, these facilities are yet to be fully adopted in certain other states. Dispute resolution is another area that is not very efficient in India, from the perspective of time and resources that have to be invested.
Why do you think India has been attracting an increased amount of foreign investment in recent years?
As a developing nation with huge population, India has a massive potential for growth. The commercial outlook of the current government and a visible intent on improving the ease of doing business has helped to develop investor confidence. More certainty around foreign exchange laws – particularly the foreign direct investment policy, and its timely amendments to resolve issues and to keep up with the market expectations – has also played an important role.
How do you see legal competition developing in India in coming years?
Indian legal market has matured fairly quickly in the past decade. Now, with technology playing a major role in almost all aspects of life, we can see investments by law firms in use of innovative technology to address issues and offer solutions that would make the profession more efficient and cost-effective for clients. Offering such technology-based services will be one of the key factors driving competition in the legal fraternity.
What is your secret to success?
My sheer passion to leave a legacy behind. Our focus to have our clients succeed – that’s what drives us each day. Adapt to changing times – embracing AI at the workplace was a landmark moment. The motto of our firm is to have India’s finest lawyers for a just world. We have tried to live by this motto.
What advice would you give to lawyers hoping to one day be in your position?
There is no substitute for hard work – the fruits of labour are sweet. Relationship building goes a long way – clients value that. Also one needs to retain one’s sense of humour. Its not an easy job managing India’s largest law firm. However, with humility and a strong sense of purpose and the desire to do what is right, one can achieve great heights.