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Indian companies are expanding in-house legal teams

Recently, when a JSWSteel Ltd-led consortium had almost clinched the deal for Monnet Ispat & Energy, another hurdle came up. The bankruptcy tribunal insisted on including small operational creditors as well, something that was not considered before. JSW Steel’s in-house legal team led by group general counsel Rajiv Bakshi stepped in, helping the consortium make a quick decision and raise its bid by ₹25 crore. JSW ended up bagging the Monnet Ispat deal. When Tata Sons appointed Shuva Mandal as the group general counsel in July last year, the management was looking for someone who could lead the transactions, restructuring and joint ventures from the front. Deals, particularly those related to stressed assets, are becoming more complex because the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) is still evolving. Simultaneously, India Inc is also learning to deal with other new laws and provisions including the goods & services tax (GST), the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, and the amendments in the Arbitration Act. Companies are *looking to expand their legal teams* mainly at mid-to-senior levels. All the listed companies on Indian bourses have spent collectively about Rs33,941 crore (over $4.7 billion) on legal and professional costs in FY 2018, according to data compiled by Capitaline. This is 5.6% (Rs32,132 crore) higher compared to a year ago period but almost 20% more than the Rs28,328 crore that all the listed companies spent in FY2016. The sharp jump in legal costs over the past two years can be attributed mainly to GST and IBC. Having an in-house legal team allows for true business partnering, resulting in superior advice in a timely and cost-efficient way, said Sree Patel.

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