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Issue Date: May 2010, Posted On: 5/7/2010

Law firm makes hard charge into India

Kanodia leads Edwards, Angell, Palmer & Dodge efforts

BOSTON — Shahana Basu Kanodia is leading law firm Edwards, Angell, Palmer and Dodge LLP's charge into India as new business law department partner and chairman of the firm's newly formed South Asia Practice Group.

Kanodia joined the Boston-based firm in September 2009, armed with a plan to transform the firm's occasional work in India into a full-time South Asia practice.

Although Edwards, Angell, Palmer and Dodge does have a number of partners across the firm who have worked in India, Kanodia says never before has anyone devoted their time expressly to South Asian transactions. The new practice group has a total of 40 in cities including; New York; Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.; Providence, R.I.; London; Hong Kong; and Boston, where both the firm and Kanodia are based.

Kanodia went to Edwards, Angell, Palmer and Dodge with a "South Asian business plan • making the case for South Asia [to become a new practice group]," she said.

Kandoia said she believed she was in a good position to capitalize on numerous Indian connections she had made while working for other law firms such as WilmerHale, where she provided general counsel, and LinkLaters LLP's London office, where she served as managing director.

Her goal was to put attorneys on the ground in India through partnerships and affiliations. Her efforts were buoyed in the way she "leverage[d] relationships in India," Kanodia said, in the hope of creating a new revenue stream for her employer.

"India is making its mark," said Kanodia. The country is looking to capitalize on a falling American currency, prompting Indian companies to seek out a greater number of acquisitions and partnerships in the United States, she added. 

American companies are attractive to a country that is set to witness double-digit economic growth in the next two years, according to Kanodia.

Another factor with great impact on India's need for business law attorneys is a suddenly widening economic growth disparity brought about by the worldwide financial crisis. The United States has sustained a much more dampening impact on its economic growth than India, said Kanodia.

Last year, the U.S. economy grew at a rate of about 2 percent, while India outpaced it by more than a 3-to-1 ratio, at 7.5 percent gross domestic product growth, she added.

"[India] is the market that will grow," Kanodia said.

Fast Fact

Since joining Edwards, Angell, Palmer and Dodge and forming its South Asian practice, lawyer Sha­hana Basu Kan­odia has spent 40 percent to 50 percent of her time in India.
India's banking system, left intact to a much greater extent than the wounded U.S. financial sector, has given banks the breathing room to dole out corporate dollars to businesses looking toward new development. These two factors work in concert quite well to spur on India's developing corporate landscape.

The Indian judicial system, based on Great Britain's, is more tightly regulated in certain areas than in the United States, but Kanodia says the biggest challenge to U.S.-India business ties has as much to do with corporate transactions than it does business regulations. For instance, the ways in which each country approaches the art of negotiation are greatly divergent, according to Kanodia. Business people in India have the tendency to avoid saying no to corporate wheeling and dealing, even when their intention is to refrain from entering into a business transaction, said Kanodia.

Kanodia says that as far as the law practices go, the United States is preoccupied with China, a country it is more comfortable with in its dealings, according to Kanodia.

Corporate social responsibility and a free media with checks and balances make India a favorable destination in terms of foreign corporate investment, however, said Kanodia.

Asked if years of using Indian workers as an inexpensive alternative to U.S. workers will sour India to the idea of forming stronger business ties with America, Kanodia pointed to the fact that India has learned about the benefits of competition in the marketplace from that experience. 

Kanodia has worked closely with the U.S.-India Business Council, which seeks to foster business between the two countries by weighing in on challenges like government regulation. Some of Kanodia's corporate cross-border transactions include representing an Indian automotive company regarding its distributorship agreements in the United States; representing an Indian provider of business process services management in its acquisition of a U.S.-based medical and dental outsourcing company; and representation of an Indian company in its acquisition of petrochemical assets in Germany. 

What stokes Kanodia's passion for practicing law is the complexities of cross-border transactions, she said. Kanodia says she draws on her liberal arts background in order to fully engage in law practice.

"All business is a set of cultural presumptions we all take for granted" requiring a high level of corroboration, said Kanodia.

So willing is Kanodia to ensure that Edwards, Angell, Palmer and Dodge's business in India is well-nurtured, she makes it a priority to be on Indian soil as much as is required.

Kanodia spoke with the IndUS Business Journal from Mumbai. Upon her return to the United States, Kanodia will attend a New York State Bar Association meeting before embarking on a trip to Hong Kong in early April.

Since joining Edwards, Angell, Palmer and Dodge and forming the South Asian practice, Kanodia says about 40 percent to 50 percent of her time has been spent in India. Kanodia's steady presence in India is vital because it shows the firm's commitment to the region, Kanodia said.

Kanodia earned a bachelor's degree in history from University of Delhi, Hindu College and a master's degree in sociology from the University of Chicago. She attended Yale Law School.

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