How has your role / involvement in client facing work changed since becoming managing partner/setting up your firm?
As a managing partner the expectations which the clients have from you and the demand for your time for firm’s administrative, practice development, and human capital growth becomes a challenge.
Over the years, the number of engagements and mandates where I have a client facing role is limited. However, in those limited engagements the client expectation is very high as the representative of the entire firm. At the same time such matters are far more complex and personal in nature where client reach out for my advice. On one end it becomes interesting, intellectually challenging, and creative to work on those matters. On the other hand it becomes far more difficult with time constraints and competing commitments.
What are the biggest challenges facing firms in Asia Pacific and specifically India?
The challenges which the firms in the region are facing are the systemic shift in client expectations and the development of legal profession. The client needs are becoming more sophisticated as transactions and structures are getting complex.
The legal practice in India is still evolving which is true even for other countries in Asia-pacific region. However, most of them are way ahead in the evolution compared to India. The legal profession being closed for foreign firms has stunted the development process in India though clients expect partners at Indian firms to be as savvy as their western counterparts. India law firms’ partners though highly sophisticated and knowledgeable in the field of law, however, we have a long way to go in learning the management of the practice or creating efficiencies for the benefit of their clients.
The global pandemic has clearly changed the way in which organizations tend to operate. What impact has this had on your clients and your approach to advising clients?
The pandemic has brought about a calamity which nobody could visualize or insure themselves against. However, as every cloud has silver lining this has also brought to the surface the inefficiencies which need to be ironed out in the way we conduct our business and carry on about our day to day activity, work-life, and personal life.
While living in a virtual world and shared economy the pandemic has shown the clients that they can operate reasonably well without physical meetings, workspaces, and in person activities. As a result, the cost associated with those activities having been written off has bought about huge problem in a number of sectors such as travel, hospitality, and many other services which were not possible to operate during this pandemic. At the same time it has created a global customer base for
professionals making world as a market to reach out to which was not even thought of earlier.
The clients in the current scenario have looked at us in creating innovative cost saving strategies and service delivery model which were effective in pandemic situation.
What do you do differently from other firms? What do you think separates you from your competitors?
At S&P, we have always been proactive in embracing technology. We had started using cloud a few years ago for our document management and to be able to provide services to the client in a virtual environment. A number of shared services in office were already on cloud. Unlike many other firms who have files in office in physical space and used to operate from office.
The lockdown did not hold us back for a single day to be able to revert to client, we were already prepared. Each and every fee earner was able to provide services to the client remotely during the lock down. Our servers were already remote but not in office premises and the files were available in cloud and colleagues wherever they were located were able to service client from any location. Besides, open work culture, trust in teams gave them the opportunity and liberty to work independently and not letting the client downs even for single day in lockdown.
We pride in our selves as being a strategic trusted advisor not looking at them as client files. We were able to give innovative advice and solutions in the pandemic to ensure their work continuity as well as assistance in the circumstance.
Are clients looking for stability and strategic direction from their law firms – where do you see the firm in three years’ time?
Gone are the days when client would continue to work with same law firm for decades after decades for all practice areas.
Today, the clients are looking for expertise and are cost conscious. To retain clients and to be able to continue to serve them one needs to ensure and have sharp focus of areas of practice and the industry sector and expertise. We have chosen certain practice areas such as Arbitration, Employment, Inbound Foreign Investments and Real Estate for our clients servicing and industry sectors such as infrastructure, technology, food & healthcare. We are focused to continue to serve clients in those areas to help them grow and grow alongside them.