Mumbai: When Kirti Balasubramanian appeared for a promotion interview for the coveted partner level at the country’s leading law firm Trilegal last year, she was just a few months away from heading into her maternity leave. That did not come in the way of her promotion and in October, Balasubramanian was promoted as partner of TMT (technology, media, and telecommunications) practice purely based on her merit and performance.

In a trend catching up fast, the country’s leading law firms are playing fair in gender diversity and promoting an increasing number of high-potential women lawyers to partner level and are walking the extra mile to retain them, industry insiders said.

Women accounted for 40% of all promotions across corporate law firms in the country in 2023, up from 33% during pre-Covid times, data from specialist legal search firm Vahura show.

“The promotions were across practice areas such as general corporate, disputes practices, capital markets, real estate, tax and intellectual property rights,” said Sneha Oommen, managing associate-private practice and funds group at Vahura.

Boutique law firm Wadhwa Law Offices, for example, promoted Rachita Nadig as their first female corporate law partner last year, according to Vahura, while Komal Dani became the first female partner in tax practice at Trilegal.

Between 22% and 27% of partners at top corporate law firms in India are women, according to Vahura. This would translate to 4,500-5,000 women partners. In the past three years, 42-45% of newly appointed partners have been women lawyers, it said.The trend is likely to continue. Trilegal, for example, aims to improve gender diversity ratio at the partner level to 40% from the current 30% in the next 2-3 years, its partner Nishant Parikh said.“The career progression of a woman professional cannot get impacted by key life stages and, as an organisation, we are proactive about enabling more women to rise to senior positions based on merit and not personal responsibilities,” he said. “At the entry level, we have an almost equal representation of men and women and our aim is to reach the 50:50 ratio for partner level a few years down the line.”

Parikh serves on Trilegal’s management committee.

One of the factors driving this trend is a push from clients. “Many Fortune 500 companies and new-age tech companies look into diversity as one of the reasons to work with law firms,” said Oommen of Vahura.

Then there is the need to widen the partner talent pool amid a boom in legal business. Demand from clients to have a partner in an M&A deal, or a transaction, or an advisory has increased manifold, making it crucial for law firms to retain top talent, industry insiders said.

“The increase in female promotions indicates a growing recognition of the importance of diversity in leadership roles,” said Nandini Gore, senior partner at New Delhi-based Karanjawala & Co. “It is reflective of broader societal changes and a realisation within the legal industry that diversity, including gender diversity, contributes to a more dynamic and effective work environment,” she said.

Law firm Chandhiok & Mahajan has more female partners and attorneys than their male counterparts, according to Shafaq Uraizee Sapre, its managing partner for Mumbai. “Our policy requires all attorneys, including partners, to ensure that the firm’s recruitment process, terms of employment and work environment are inclusive,” she said.

C&M is headed by a woman, its managing partner Pooja Mahajan.

Flexible work arrangement has also made it easier for firms to hold on to their top female lawyers.


Poornima Hatti, partner at law firm Samvad Partners, said greater acceptance of flexible work arrangement post Covid, especially during key life stages such as maternity, is enabling many women lawyers to balance different roles.

Trilegal’s Parikh said a few crucial breaks should not come as a hindrance in the long professional career of high potential women talent. “It is important for organisations — especially in high-pressure jobs — to be extremely alert about the needs of women and create an enabling ecosystem, so that they do not drop off mid-career,” he said.

Globally, the shift from an execution role to a rain-making role is harder for women lawyers in the absence of training and an enabling environment.

However, the need to widen their talent pool, increasing push from clients as well as a greater sensitisation and understanding of the business case of diversity is leading the law firms to fast-track the career trajectory of their high potential women lawyers.


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