Legal Articles

Top Law Firm Luminaries

Anand advices and represents several large corporates, High Net Worth Individuals (HNIs) and big stars of the Hindi film industry. There are very few days when a case that DSK Legal is involved in isn’t reported in the Press, says Desai

Born in a family of eminent legal professionals and businesspersons, Anand is not one to rest on his laurels, both in his professional and personal life. A stalwart in the legal profession, Anand is a self-made lawyer, although he is one of the few fortunate ones to have an enviable family legacy. His grandfather, Mangaldas Desai, was a senior counsel, and for a brief period served as an Additional High Court Judge in Bombay and, having invested in Larsen and Toubro Ltd. (L&T), was also considered a co-founder of the company. His father Narotam (Nicky) Desai is a qualified lawyer, but spent his entire career working for L&T, before retiring as its Chairman and Managing Director. Anand’s maternal grandmother was from the legendary Setalvad family, and her eldest brother was Independent India’s first Attorney General.

Anand’s keenness to win every challenge that comes his way, perhaps, has its roots in the undying sportsman’s spirit in him. Along with a fine legal brain, Anand has also inherited a rich legacy in sports. His mother, Anjani Desai, is the first Indian citizen to win the ladies’ Amateur All India golf title, and the prestigious Arjuna Award for Ladies’ Golf.

Anand has his future defined in both fields — law and sports —- being born with the much coveted mix of the best of both. Anand always balanced his sports and academics by being the Western India Champion in swimming and golf during his youth, and participating at the national level in table tennis as well, in addition to being a First Class student.

After graduating in law in 1984, Anand started his career as a junior counsel in the chambers of Mr J.I. Mehta. He had a very successful start to his career, including arguing a case that had been reported as early as in his second year of practice. After five years of practice, Anand also dabbled in business for a year, and then went on to obtain his Masters degree in the U.K. After graduating with a distinction in the Masters programme in International Law from the University of Edinburgh in 1991, Anand came back to Bombay to become a partner in a boutique law firm. At the young age of 33, he represented the “Big Bull” Harshad Mehta before the Special Court established by the Government to try what was known as the ‘securities scam’ that shook the nation.

Anand founded DSK Legal in 2001, as a member of Anderson Legal, the then fastest growing global network of law firms. Although Anderson closed globally shortly thereafter, under Anand’s leadership DSK Legal has grown from seven lawyers at inception, to over a hundred now, and is considered amongst the most reputed firms in India. Over the years, Anand has expanded the breadth of his practice from dispute resolution and real estate work, to a multi-disciplinary practice ranging from corporate and private equity transactions to intellectual property and banking, succession and estate planning, amongst many others. In 2014 Anand was awarded the ‘Best Managing Partner of the Year’ by the Annual Legal Era Awards.

Anand is listed as one of the leading lawyers in India for his various practice areas in the Who’s Who Legal, Chambers Global, PLC Which Lawyer, IFLR, and Asia Pacific Legal 500.

The strict diktat of his family, that each member should independently build a successful career and fulfill their own potential, is clearly reflected in him. He candidly admits, “Although my father was earning quite well, I was told to stand on my own feet before I could marry.” This, perhaps, resulted in the strong individualism that has made him self- reliant and a go-getter, always striving for excellence.

DSK Legal has offices in Mumbai, Delhi and Pune and, among assignments across many disciplines of law, Anand advises and represents several large corporate (domestic and multinational), HNIs and stars of the Hindi film industry. He is probably the most versatile lawyer, having represented clients, and being recognized as a leading lawyer in almost all aspects of law-constitution, civil, criminal, corporate, real estate, intellectual property, information technology, private equity, succession and competition, amongst others. He is as well known for transaction and specialist advisory work, as he is for strategic advice and arguing complicated disputes.

Anand is pleased that his firm handles very high profile cases, and he is happy to note that there are very few days when a case that DSK Legal is involved in isn’t reported in the Press.

Anand is not very sociable and he has no qualms in admitting it. He says categorically, “I rarely socialize with clients. I would rather spend time with my family.” Being one of the finest lawyers and the managing partner of one of most respected firms has not stopped Anand from being a supportive husband to Sonavi, whether in her book-publishing business or other endeavours. Anand has also been a wonderful father to Antara and Agastya, helping them grow into independent, sensitive, right –thinking adults. Antara has started her own political consultancy business and son Agastya is a lawyer.

Anand is proud of the lesson he received from his parents, of building a career independently. So, when asked whether his son will join his law firm, his answer is clear and categorical. “In our family each generation has to struggle and make their own way. My father was in L&T but I was not allowed to work there, or do work for L&T even as a lawyer. My son will also build his own career.” Anand has managed to achieve the elusive work-life balance, which most people seek in their lives.

Anand is not just a successful lawyer. He is an exceptional achiever holding positions in important organizations. He has served as the National President of the Indo- American Chamber of Commerce for the year 2011-2012. He has also served as Member on the Boards of well-known companies and he serves on various committees. He has delivered lectures on a wide range of issues at various fora, including CII, ASSOCHAM, Indo-American Chamber of Commerce, Economist Corporate Network, Indian Film Festival at Los Angeles, and the University of Wisconsin.

Anand believes that giving back to the society is the best path to one’s own peace and happiness. In keeping with this, Anand actively supports an NGO that identifies and nurtures high-IQ children in tribal and rural areas, and another that propagates plants with medicinal properties and spreads awareness of the benefits of using these, apart from contributing to several charities. Anand recognizes the Indian judicial system as an irreplaceable opportunity for recourse that we have in our democracy, but hopes that access to and speed of justice will improve in India. He would like to see the system geared up with the use of modern technology. With some degree of impatience he remarks,

“When we can do banking transactions, book tickets, hotels, etc. and so many other transactions online, why can the legal system not use more technology, at least for many aspects of dispute resolution?”

Anand is quite obviously proud to have an illustrious set of celebrity clients. He mentions big names: “for over 20 years Aamir Khan has been my client and I do all his legal work. Salman Khan is also my client.” He also represented Strides Arcolab in the largest corporate deal in India in 2013-14, when Strides sold a business to Mylan, and represented the film producers association against the Multiplex Owners before the Competition Commission.

Anand personifies Alfred Lord Tennyson’s Ulysses: “to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield” and has probably been best described by Fali Nariman as an “extremely competent legal wizard.”


We acknowledge “100 Legal Luminaries of India” by Lalit Bhasin (Lexis). The multicolour coffee table book printed on art paper in Hardbound is priced at ` 5995/- and is available at Universal Book Traders, C-27, Connaught Place, New Delhi – 110001. sales@ubtlawbooks.com

Leave a Comment