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S Ravi Shankar, Senior partner

Senior partner S Ravi Shankar explains the future of international commercial arbitrations in Asia

What do you see as the main points that differentiate LAW SENATE from your competitors?

Lawsenate is an unique law firm since it has realised the importance of offering expert services in the field of international arbitration, enforcement of foreign awards and arbitration-related litigations and hence fully focuses in this area of practice. Today, for most of the companies, the whole world is the market. For many of them export revenue is more important than domestic. To play an active and leading role in a business portfolio, joint ventures with local partners is a comfortable model. In such a situation, it is natural that disputes involving multi-jurisdiction grow along with the growth of international business. International arbitration has emerged as the best option for resolving international disputes. Now after 2015 amendments to Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1996, many parties keep international arbitrations seated in India. The firm offers India-seated and foreign-seated arbitrations under various arbitration Institutions including ICC, LCIA, SIAC, HKIAC, KLRCA, DIAC, DFIC-LCIA, etc. The firm has a strong network of lawyers with sufficient exposure to arbitration and related litigation spread across 45 important cities of India covering all the states of India. Law Senate is one of the few law firms in India that has associate partners in more than 41 jurisdictions of the world to assist the partners to handle foreign-seated arbitrations. Since Law Senate has developed a strong expertise in the field of arbitration, offering services globally, it is able to ensure international standard of service to its clients and way ahead of competing full service law firms.

Which type of practice do you see growing in the next 12 months? What are the drivers behind that?

A big growth is expected in the field of India seated International arbitrations and Asia-seated arbitrations. After the introduction of the new Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Act 2015, the arbitration scenario of India has drastically changed. Certain path breaking changes have been brought in by the above said amendment which include a 12 month time limit for conclusion of arbitration proceedings, fee schedule for the arbitrators, mandatory declaration by the arbitrator in the lines of IBA Rules on Conflict of interest in International Arbitration, empowering Indian courts with powers to grant interim orders in support of foreign-seated arbitrations, recognition of interim arbitral awards for the purpose of enforcement, etc. The above said amendments are the drivers which have increased the confidence of parties to have more and more international arbitrations seated in India.

In the same way the growth in the number of international arbitrations administered and seated in Asia is expected to increase in a big way. This is because cities like Singapore, Hong Kong are not seen as just Asian hub of arbitration, they are growing as international centres.

What's the main change you've made in the firm that will benefit clients?

Law Senate is an Indian law firm specialising in expert arbitration practice and corporate dispute resolution, having its partners and associates not only in all the states of India but also from about 41 countries of the world. The important strength of the firm is that all its lawyers have an excellent experience in dispute resolution practice of law. The firm has developed an expertise in handling, domestic and international arbitrations in India, enforcement of foreign arbitration awards, commercial litigation and Supreme Court cases.

Is technology changing the way you interact with your clients, and the services you can provide them?

Our office has its own cloud commuting facility and the entire work integrated systematically. Arbitration practice is a growing field and developments happen all over the world and hence the firm has a strong online library which has access to most of the legal journals and databases from all important jurisdictions of the world. More over the firm itself has developed case management software that supports the maintenance of records in digital format, communication and other case management activities including communication with our clients. The office of the firm has all modern tools and facilities.

Can you give us a practical example of how you have helped a client to add value to their business?

One of our high-value Chinese clients, who has started an infrastructure company in India, was selected as the steel structure contractor for one of the India’s biggest airport construction contract and had some earlier bad experiences in terms of payments with the main contractor. The total value of the contract was about $30m, hence they did not want to miss the chance working in the project because of the fear about the main contractors. The Chinese client requested us to work closely with them on the project right from the beginning to protect their interest in case of any future dispute. Hence the firm took over the legal support right from the beginning from the negotiation of contract, drafting of the contract, contract management, communication to the main contractor etc. Each and every lapse on the part of the main contractor was recorded, communications were effectively planned and proper records were created and maintained by our firm. When disputes arise our client could recover all the amounts due along with proper damages, in an arbitration administered by a popular international arbitration institution.

Are clients looking for stability and strategic direction from their law firms? Where do you see the firm in three years’ time?

The firm is in the process of increasing its partners and improving its capability by hiring lawyers with experience in different jurisdictions in the field of arbitration. Moreover, the firm is in the process of increasing its offices by opening ten branch offices all over India and two overseas offices, one in Singapore and another in Hong Kong. Hence the firm will multiply its capability in the next three years and position itself in the group of top-tier law firms of Asia.

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