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He’s been making waves in legal circles last week, shifting from financially troubled FoxMandal Little, to the highly successful Luthra & Luthra Law Offices. Bar & Bench talks to Vineet Aneja, Partner and head of the Corporate Practice at FoxMandal, soon to be Partner at Luthra & Luthra.
Bar & Bench: You were a Senior Associate with Luthra when you decided to make the shift to FoxMandal. What motivated that decision?
Vineet Aneja: I was a Senior Associate with Luthra and was looking for better opportunities, and it just happened that Fox Mandal made an offer that suited my requirements.
B&B: Was Luthra your first employer? What made you decide to take up the law?
Vineet Aneja: I come from a Hotel Management background, but I developed an interest in law during my undergraduate degree (Commerce). Before jumping into a career in the law I went to the district courts and the high court in Delhi to get a feel of what being a lawyer involved. At that point in time, there wasn’t much corporate work, so most new lawyers had to decide between civil and criminal law. I started off as a litigating lawyer, working with Atul Sharma, who later set up a firm, today known as Link Legal. I was with him for around three and a half years. Thereafter, with the objective of making a career in corporate law, I did a short nine-month stint at Singhania & Partners, before I went on to Luthra.
B&B: Luthra was recommending work/clients to you whenever a conflict of interest arose. Is that the reason you picked Luthra when you decided to make a shift from FoxMandal?
Vineet Aneja: Perhaps not the major reason, but yes Mohit had referred work, and even after leaving the Luthra offices, I had been in touch with Mohit and Mr. Luthra on a professional and personal level. I had been exploring various options of moving from Fox Mandal and it just so happened that I was approached by one of the Partners from Luthra regarding returning to Luthra. Looking at it from a career growth angle, Luthra was an obvious choice. Luthra & Luthra has been doing some excellent work and has been involved in some of the largest transactions in recent times, so I took up the opportunity.
B&B: You were instrumental in building the Corporate Practice at FoxMandal. What prompted your decision to leave the firm?
Vineet Aneja: My decision to leave Fox Mandal emanates from certain differences of opinion on policy matters at the firm level. In addition to that, I felt that with the kind of work Luthra & Luthra is currently engaged in, it would be a good move. On the whole, over the years, I have had a good experience at Fox Mandal and have worked on many significant transactions both domestic and international, but the time had come to move on.
B&B: You were working with FoxMandal when the firm merged with Little&Co. Was it a good move for FoxMandal?
Vineet Aneja: Little & Co. had a significant presence in Mumbai and Fox Mandal in Delhi. At that point of time, both firms were looking to expand and the merger instantly provided a large presence in both Mumbai and Delhi to the merged entity. However, as could be the case with any merger, there have been certain problems with integration.
B&B: Fox Mandal’s Managing Partner, Som Mandal has been vocal in his support of the entry of foreign law firms in India. Rajiv Luthra, Luthra & Luthra’s Managing Partner has been equally vocal about his stand against the idea. Which of these two views do you subscribe to?
Vineet Aneja: I have not personally been involved in the process of opposing or being in favour of the opening of the legal sector to foreign lawyers. But personally, I would say that the opening up of the legal sector shall take place eventually and it would be in the best interest of Indian lawyers especially corporate lawyers to prepare themselves to face such a situation.
B&B: What long term plans do you have for the corporate practice at Luthra and yourself?
Vineet Aneja: Well I’m looking forward to going back and joining Luthra and I anticipate a long term stay here. Luthra already have a well established corporate practice and my aim would be further develop the practice. I am going to be looking at joint ventures and M&A which is my forte. From a work point, I have also done some capital markets, but at Luthra I will be mostly looking at M&A and general corporate advisory work.
B&B: On a level playing field, do you think Indian lawyers will be able to compete with international firms?
Vineet Aneja: Definitely. In fact, in some matters, you may find that Indian lawyers have a better understanding, and I think that lawyers in India in the corporate sector are very competent and can effectively negotiate with foreign lawyers across the table.
B&B: So did you find that when FoxMandal’s London offices opened, clients who were approaching India practices of UK firms, starting coming to you instead?
Vineet Aneja: The purpose of opening the London office was to directly reach out to clients looking towards india and in some instances this was the case, however, the referrals through UK firms still continued as before.
B&B: Are you planning to expand your practice area in Luthra, in terms of personnel and transactions?
Vineet Aneja: As mentioned my main areas of practice are joint ventures, M&A and general corporate advice. My work profile at FoxMandal in addition to the above also included advice on funds, project finance, real estate and more recently to developing a practice in the area of Competition law. At Luthra, similarly, I would consider other practice areas and hope to add to their corporate practice group. In addition to my role as the head of the corporate practice at FoxMandal, I was also involved in business development and marketing of the firm, which I intend to continue at Luthra.
B&B: What is the biggest deal you’ve ever worked on?
Vineet Aneja: Well, judging a transaction by its deal value may not necessarily be the right measure from the perspective of the legal counsel working on the transaction. I have, in my legal career of nearly 13 years, worked on many transactions ranging from private equity funds to global mergers. At FoxMandal, one such transaction was acquisition of Allied Domecq by Fortune Brands of US. I had also advised Gas Authority of India in relation to the restructuring of the Dabhol Power Company, wherein the debt restructuring itself was to the tune of approximately USD 2 billion. Further, in the past year I have advised Alcatel-Lucent in relation to their two joint ventures in relation to managed services with Reliance Communications in 2008 and Bharti Airtel Limited in 2009. Both the joint ventures were valued at approximately USD 500 million each.
B&B: What do you do when you want to switch off and get away from it all?
Vineet Aneja: Challenging legal transactions and good work have been a strong motivating factor in my legal career. Honestly, work takes up the larger part of my day, to which I have no complaints. When I do get the time, I like to relax with a good movie at home. I very rarely go to movie halls and prefer to buy DVDs and watch the movies at leisure at home. I have quite a collection of DVDs.