Which are India’s highest paying law firms?

There’s no polite way of saying this: young lawyers in India are struggling to earn well in today’s market. 

Not having a job, or earning too little despite working very hard, are two of the biggest problems they face. As a result, almost every other law student and lawyer wants a law firm job to secure his or her career and earn well. 

How well can they earn? We will tell you at our upcoming free and online bootcamp on how to get a law firm job, but we thought of compiling a short sample list showing some of India’s highest paying law firms at the entry level. 

Law firmApprox annual package
Khaitan & CoINR 16-17 LPA
Shardul Amarchand MangaldasINR 16 LPA
Cyril Amarchand MangaldasINR 16 LPA
L&L PartnersINR 15-17 LPA
Saraf & PartnersINR 16 LPA
TrilegalINR 16-17 LPA

Then there’s a tier 2 firm like Nishith Desai Associates, which pays approximately INR 17.4 lakh per annum, which is among the highest in India, but they hire less than five people a year on average. 

Another tier 2 firm that offers a similar annual package is Touchstone Partners, Mumbai, with an average pay of INR 16.6 lakh. Or you have Talwar Thakore & Associates, whose basic pay is quite similar to other top firms, but whose 40 percent bonus variable raises their annual package to around INR 18.2 lakh. Many other big firms offer these variable bonuses. 

Or there are boutique law firms such as S&R Associates, with an annual package of approximately INR 16.3 lakh, but they too hire a limited number of people per year.

Of course, what we see here is the cream of the crop. And obviously, not all aspiring candidates will be able to join these market leaders. But this gives you an idea of what you can eventually aspire to if you are good enough. 

What about higher designations? 

If you are a senior associate, you may earn anywhere between INR 25-35 lakh per annum, sometimes more. From their second year onwards, senior associates in big or boutique law firms can make more than INR 40 lakh. 

Principal associates are lawyers on a partner track, have typically spent 6-7 years at the firm, and depending on the firm, your experience and your performance, you can make anywhere between INR 36-60 lakh per year, sometimes more. In a senior position like this, the bonus becomes a bigger component of your salary. 

At the partner level, you have acquired 8-12 years of experience, depending upon the type of firm. But experience alone is rarely enough, and you need to be a leader within and outside the firm, bringing in good business or being really good at getting work done. 

Salaried partners easily earn upwards of INR 70 lakh to a few crores per year. For example, an M&A lawyer at partner level at a tier-1 law firm (with around 10 years of experience), draws an average all inclusive annual pay in the range of INR 90 lakh and 1.2 crore. 

What are the different types of law firms?

So far, we’ve mentioned tier 1 and non-ter 1 as well as boutique law firms. What do such classifications mean? Let’s take a brief look:

Full service vs Boutique: Full-service law firms provide service across all practice areas of law. These are generally large in size, though small firms can be full service too. Some well-known examples of full service law firms are Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas, Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas, Khaitan, Trilegal, Fox & Mandal, etc. 

Boutique law firms are limited to one or more highly specialised practice areas. Usually not as big as full-service law firms, their unique selling point is their expertise in one or two specific areas. They often add additional practice areas when they become sufficiently successful in one practice area. 

Sometimes, boutique practices are overall small but highly profitable and margins are a lot better than those of full-service law firms. This is why large law firms are always on the lookout to acquire highly profitable and robust boutique practices. 

Among notable Indian boutique firms are AK Law Chambers (disputes resolution), Remfry & Sagar (intellectual property), and Ikigai Law (technology). Boutique law firms may actually charge more than well known full-service law firms as they command special expertise in a practice area. 

Tier-1, Tier-2, etc. 

It is common practice to classify law firms as tier-1, tier-2, tier-3 etc, and we do not quite know where the tiers end. There may be 4th, 5th, 6th or 7th tiers! Hard to tell as there is no reliable data. Beyond tier-1 and tier-2, things are quite unclear. 

Which tier a law firm belongs to is a matter of market perception, as profits or revenues of law firms are unknown in India unlike in the UK or US. So the market perception of how elite or successful a law firm is, is often formed by salaries paid to retainers (especially at entry-level), team size, how many locations they serve, volume of deals handled etc. 

Some law firms are widely considered to be tier-1. Others are not considered as such, though they may claim they are tier-1 in a specific practice area.

What I have listed here are just the basic criteria. There are many more layers to law firms and their classification. 

There are also various levels of seniority, job roles, skill sets, and practice areas that command varying pay packages apart from the ones I have listed. 

Which one are you aspiring to? What skills do you need to rise to the higher levels of a big or boutique law firm?

How can you make sure the law firms of your choice even notice your application?

Which law firms are best suited to your skill sets?

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