When Shardul Shroff took over the running of the Delhi Office of Amarchand & Mangaldas, he had spent just 3 months at the Bar and never appeared in court. What worked for him was his mental strength and his out-of-the-box thinking.
A boy, all of 15 years, set out to observe the world of law at his father’s office. Unknown to him at the time, he would be the Managing Partner of the biggest law firm in the country.
He had barely spent 3 months at the Bar and never appeared in court, when Shardul Shroff had to take over the running of the Delhi operations of reputed Mumbai law firm Amarchand & Mangaldas & Suresh A. Shroff & Co in September 1980. Faced with 3000 cases pending hearing, he found himself heading a team of only three lawyers, of whom two left in the second month. He could expect help only from his wife Pallavi, who was still in law school. But to a quick learner such as Shardul, learning the intricacies of law such as conducting a trial, leading a cross examination, writing pleadings, witnessing actions, drawing up appeals, although exhaustive were lessons he mastered in no time. His young talent, all of 24 years, was soon recognized by the judges. “I knew the laws in theory. I had no mentor. Only long-distance guidance from my father. Many of these pending cases were Supreme Court and High Court cases. It was almost baptism by fire!” says Shardul, recalling those days of little sleep when preparing for a case and pouring over briefs every waking moment was the order of the day.
What worked for him was his mental strength which can be attributed to the spirituality and religious practices that have been followed by his mother and grandmother. This strength has helped him build on his skills of innovation and solve many a case with his out-of-the-box solutions, something for which he is now renowned.
His wife Pallavi too is his strength. A tomboy, Pallavi’s marriage to Shardul was arranged by her parents. Granddaughter of H.N. Bhagwati, Supreme Court Judge and daughter of Chief Justice of Supreme Court P.N. Bhagwati, her interest in law took time to be awakened. Having attained a Master’s Degree in Business Administration, she was “busy marketing detergents” when her marriage to Shardul was arranged. It was only when one day Shardul stood her up on a date that she decided to do law. “Once, Shardul missed a date with me. That’s when I decided to do law. I told him ‘today you made me wait, tomorrow I will make you wait’,” reveals Pallavi. An ardent supporter of women, Pallavi herself faced negativity and scepticism during her initial years as a lawyer. Yet, it was her mother-in-law who held her hand at each step. Having undergone seven surgeries it was Shardul’s mother Bharti Shroff, who helped her strike balance between her work and home.
There is, however, much more to this lawyer couple than just law. Shardul has a pendant for the good things in life. His keen observational skills make him a favourite when the women in the family go jewellery shopping. “It’s love for the good things in life. I have a huge collection of ties. And I love jewellery and I usually end up choosing the jewellery for my wife and daughters,” he admits with unabashed candour. He also likes to give vent to his philosophical and spiritual thoughts through his poems. Pallavi on the other hand does an Imelda Marcos with her fetish for shoes. An art admirer, Pallavi loves to collect art as well. Walls of both home and office showcase her collection of contemporary Indian art. Also fond of plants and gardening, with quite the green thumb, she oversaw the landscaping of their farmhouse, planting nearly 10,000 trees in their farmhouse in Delhi’s upmarket Vasant Vihar. However, it is her culinary skills that have her foodie family raving for more. Says daughter Natasha: “My mother is a wonderful cook. I rather eat what she cooks than at the best gourmet hotels!”
Shardul and Pallavi are blessed with two daughters, Natasha and Shweta. Shweta, who holds an LL.B. from the University of Wales, Cardiff, and an LL.M. from the London School of Economics & Political Science, is a qualified solicitor. Having worked abroad for three years she joined Amarchand in 2007. At present she is specializing in competition law. It was while she was interning with Arun Jaitley and learning competition law that she met Naval Satarawala Chopra who is a partner in the competition law team at Amarchand Mangaldas, and finally tied the knot in 2008. The couple has a son Yohan, who was born in 2010.
Natasha, Pallavi and Shardul’s other daughter, is an alumnus of University College London. She completed her LL.B. in 2005 and decided to practice in the UK. Joining the family law practice has thus been a natural choice for the daughters.
The firm was started by Shardul’s grandfather Amarchand Shroff in 1914. Suresh A. Shroff, Shardul’s father, was the sole proprietor of Amarchand Mangaldas till 1984. Though Shardul was running the Delhi Office, he was not made Managing Director till his younger brother Cyril too passed law in 1984. Shardul and Cyril took charge in 1994 after their father’s death. Cyril Shroff, also a Managing Partner, heads the Mumbai office.
When the brothers took over the firm they were essentially a law firm catering to the needs of financial institutions. While Mumbai sticks to its strengths, which are project banking, project finance and capital markets, new practice areas have been spawned at Delhi and then made national. Shardul and Pallavi have efficiently introduced many a change such as introducing an intellectual property division, taxation, and competition law. Real estate and insurance are also fairly new practice areas in Delhi. Theirs is the only firm that has a full-fledged department to look at policy and change, labour, employment and environment. Also, in 1994, the firm had just 30 lawyers; “Today it is a humungous operation of 900 plus employees of whom nearly 600 are lawyers.” Since it is no longer a small enterprise, it becomes a two-fold task to take it forward.
This complex task involves two programmes of excellence: Excellence in the practice of the law and excellence in the administration of lawyers. Hence Shardul and Pallavi have now turned into managers, managing both lawyers and the transactions of the firm. “But we are still hands-on lawyers. We have the love of the law. It is in our genes,” affirms Shardul.
(Shardul and Pallavi Shroff, together with the partners of the Delhi region of Amarchand & Mangaldas & Suresh A. Shroff & Co., have formed a new firm, Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co.)
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