Sumeet Kachwaha has over 40 years’ standing in the legal profession, mainly in corporate and commercial laws (including cross-border disputes). He is top ranked by Chambers Asia and The Legal 500: Asia Pacific. He is also recognised by Who’s Who Legal in their arbitration, construction, government contracts and asset recovery guides. He has served as sole arbitrator in several construction arbitrations; as amicus curiae to the High Court of Delhi in two matters (including in relation to a BIT dispute); and as an expert witness on Indian law in the courts of England and Singapore. He sits on the advisory board of the Asian International Arbitration Centre.
Describe your career to date.
I joined the legal profession in June 1979 and had the privilege to work under the senior partner of the then top law firm in India, JB Dadachandji & Co. I worked with them for about two years as a junior, and later as an of counsel. In parallel I trained under Mr Kapil Sibal (who later served as law minister of India). I was privileged to be involved with some landmark cases, not only in India but internationally. These include the Union Carbide Bhopal gas leak case, which arose out of the worst industrial disaster known to mankind. Here I worked directly under the doyen of the Indian Bar and an internationally acclaimed lawyer, Mr Fali S Nariman. This case was litigated for over five years in Indian and US courts, and finally settled under the aegis of the Indian Supreme Court. My legal experience also includes a few years on the non-contentious side, involving the telecoms sector. In 2002 I set up my own firm which now is well recognised as a leading dispute resolution firm in India.
What motivated you to pursue a legal career?
Way back in 1976, the career options were rather standardised. The prime choice then was to try for the coveted Indian Administrative Service. I was, however, temperamentally unsuited for a job (and certainly for a government job!). Given my educational choices (honours in English literature), law seemed the most
What did you find challenging about entering the role of arbitrator in construction disputes?
I have received appointments as sole arbitrator in domestic construction disputes. The biggest challenge I find here is a lack of awareness, in many parties/lawyers, of best practices in construction arbitration. I have to gently guide the parties in the right direction.
What did you enjoy most about setting up your own firm?
It was a sweet challenge to start on a blank slate (with the advantage of 20 years of experience by then in counsel practice). I made a fundamental decision to go for organic growth only, and to not have disparate elements or too many lateral hires in the firm. My two partners, with whom we started, were young lawyers who had worked with me and we shared the necessary chemistry and I had full confidence in their capabilities. In retrospect, this turned out to be an excellent way to go about it. Thankfully it has been a smooth trajectory. At the same time no one in the legal profession can or should rest on one’s laurels, so it is good to be continuously challenged and finally compete against oneself.
What are the main challenges you face when handling cross-border construction disputes?
In any cross-border dispute one has to interact with people from different legal cultural backgrounds, and the biggest challenge is to understand the expectation of a diverse tribunal and align your client’s and your team to their expectations.
How has the legal market changed since you started practising?
It’s a complete sea change. Forty years back a legal practice in India essentially meant a court practice (with a smallish office). No one specialised in arbitrations. There were very few cross-border disputes. A law firm’s reputation was built by word of mouth and (in India at least) “marketing” was frowned upon.
As founder of Kachwaha & Partners, what are your priorities for the firm’s development over the next five years?
Our growth will be organic and built on trust, confidence and mutual goodwill. This is fundamental for us. We will continue to focus on our core areas (international arbitrations) and infrastructure and broad base our firm’s resources to better focus on specialities such as shipping/sports arbitration/investment arbitration etc.
What is the best piece of career advice you have received?
Never lose your credibility.
"Sumeet is thoroughly worthy of inclusion"
"He has a great following of international clients"
"I consider the quality of Sumeet's work to be of the standard that international clients would expect"
Sumeet Kachwaha is the founding partner of dispute-resolution specialist firm, Kachwaha & Partners. He has handled many landmark and cross-border disputes.
Sumeet has been appointed sole arbitrator by the High Court of Delhi in several arbitrations. He has also served as amicus curiae to the High Court of Delhi twice (including in relation to the first BIT dispute to come up before Indian courts). He has also stood as an expert witness on Indian law in the courts of England and Singapore.
Sumeet has been ranked in Band 1 in the arbitration section of Chambers Asia since 2009. He features as a “leading individual” in The Legal 500: Asia Pacific for dispute resolution, and in the ‘arbitration’, ‘asset recovery’, ‘construction’, ‘government contracts’ and ‘procurement’ Sections of Who’s Who Legal.
Sumeet currently serves on the six-member advisory board of the Asian International Arbitration Centre (formerly KLRCA). He previously served as the chair of the dispute resolution and arbitration section of the Inter-Pacific Bar Association (IPBA) and as vice president of the Asia-Pacific Regional Arbitration Group (APRAG).
Publications include: “The White Industries Australia Limited: India BIT Award – A Critical Assessment”, Arbitration International, Vol 29, (2013); “Interim Relief: Comments on the UNCITRAL Amendments and the Indian Perspective”, Yearbook on International Arbitration, Vol III, (2012); “Enforcement of Arbitration Awards in India”, Asian International Arbitration Journal, Kluwer (2008); “The Indian Arbitration Law: Towards a New Jurisprudence”, International Arbitration Law Review, Sweet & Maxwell (2007); and “Arbitration Law of India – A Critical Analysis”, Asian International Arbitration Journal, Kluwer (2005).
Sumeet Kachwaha comes highly recommended by peers for his expert handling of high-value construction arbitrations.
Sumeet Kachwaha is the founding partner of New Delhi based law firm Kachwaha & Partners. He has over 40 years’ standing in the profession. His work focuses on dispute resolution, contracts, construction, infrastructure and procurement.
Sumeet has been involved as counsel in over 40 construction-related disputes. He has been involved in several power projects and has advised extensively on privatisation of railways, roads, airports, bridges and other infrastructure projects. Sumeet has also served as a sole arbitrator in several construction disputes.
Sumeet is a founding fellow of the International Academy of Construction Lawyers.
Sumeet has some of the highest rankings from law directories in dispute resolution. He features in the procurement and government contracts section of Who’s Who Legal. He served a three-year term as chair of the dispute resolution and arbitration section of the IPBA and a two-year term as co-chair in a subcommittee of the international construction project (ICP) committee of the IBA. He also served as vice president of the Asia-Pacific Regional Arbitration Group (APRAG). He currently sits on the advisory board of the Kuala Lumpur Regional Centre for Arbitration (now known as the Asian International Arbitration Centre).
His detailed CV and clients testimonials are available at www.kaplegal.com.