Extracts from The Interview

Welcome Mr Amit Suden to this Euro Legal global dialogue. We are delighted to speak with you today.

Amit is the Managing Partner of Riar Global LLP. With specialisation in corporate mobility and compliance advisory, he has significant experience in advising Fortune 500 multinationals and large Indian business houses on a wide range of matters relating to Immigration policy, Regulatory compliances, tax structuring, legal controversy across a range of sectors.

The Firm’s strategic approach as a response towards this pandemic

It is clearly understood by all that this is an unprecedented event. Not just the legal profession, no one in the world was prepared for it. Hence there is nothing that could have been done to deal with the situation that we are currently dealing with. Coming to your question on the strategic approach—let me give you a little bit of a brief on what the impact has been and how we in Riar legal have dealt with this. I leave it to you and your judgement as to the efficacy and the effectiveness of it but I’d like to share some of my experiences with you. Just to lend some context to this—every law firm has a mix of work and a mix of work will eventually determine how you deal with the situation from a practice standpoint in the COVID period.

Ours is a full-service law firms and we have a good balance of advisory and disputes work. Now clearly as we entered the pandemic, we realised that for the first two months there was no court work because the e-courts started functioning only towards the early to the mid part of June and what happened really was that the mix of our work shifted from court to advisory.

We are accepting more and more advisory engagements. We started having a proactive dialogue with the client, we shifted some of our resources to doing research work. The e-court have now started and in the e-courts as you know, they’re hearing important matters such as bail and indisposition matters.

What’s the strategic approach? Well, nothing in particular. I’d like to see advisory work grow. As far as the arbitration work is concerned, the expert witness work that we do, clearly is growing.

I became a Director at the age of 35 and then I got into the management or leadership side at the age of 38. What happens in a professional services firm, whether it is a law firm or a consultancy firm, is that when you are a high performer you also become a candidate for leadership position. Now when you take on a leadership position particularly when it is a non-client role, you have to be mindful of how much are you balancing between your client and non-client responsibility. If you want to be serving clients and if you want to be cutting-edge then you cannot give up client work. I know lots of my colleagues in the legal profession who have become management partners— who do not do client work. Well, I think that is a real challenge because as professional lawyers we are in demand because the clients want to bank on us and leverage our technical knowledge. As you become more and more senior, the client wants to leverage your wisdom because our profession is such that the older you get the better you get. It’s the same old wine story that we have. So, from my standpoint, it was critical that having achieved a leadership position at a very early stage of my career I was able to keep up to speed with the technical knowledge, with the ability to advise clients, with the ability to get into situations that were very complex and then the clients eventually see you adding value to that.

To your point on networking, again I think I was very fortunate and lucky with the supervisors that I had who encouraged me to embrace soft skills at a very early age. And those are by way of public speaking skills or writing skills or the ability to indulge in deep research or networking opportunities, which for a lack of better term people call—business development.

There are ways and means to achieve growth in your business. I come from an old school of thought, I don't think that lawyers and professionals should solicit work but we know the reality at the ground level is different. Everyone is soliciting work and everyone calls this business development or marketing. My idea of a professional lawyer is that you should be so good that the client should be at your doorstep. You should be so good that the client should seek you out for it and then you ask for your price from the client. Now in order for you to be able to do that you have to be outstanding in technical knowledge, analysis, in giving business solutions, and in bringing real cutting-edge approach to clients’ problems. So, I would say a combination of developing non-technical skills in the area of public speaking, high research and ability to network with the right-minded people is in my view what stood out for me in my career.

Unlike in many Western parts of the world where senior professionals have a commitment towards training the younger generation, we do not have that as a convention in India. And this was my way of giving something back. So, I do devote about 10% - 15% of my time to academia, which is all my associations with universities, teaching commitments and I want to continue doing that because I feel that it's important to take your time away from a profitable practice and when I use the word profitable it means that if I don't do that work pro bono and I start doing client work, I will make more money. But you have to take out that time. Lawyers have this important concept called Pro Bono work. I also do Pro Bono work on taxpayer rights. I have stood up in the Delhi High court on Writ Petitions for Civil rights. I think that every professional, not just doctors, have to do Pro Bono work or social work. As you grow older as a professional, you have to be more and more mindful of societal needs and you have to show more and more commitment towards that. So, what I am doing is just a small contribution and my plea and my prayer for everyone is that they should do it as well. I know that some people do it in varying degrees but I would like this to be done more and more in the legal profession because the judicial system over here and the delays in the judicial system are of such a nature that you need more and more of pro Bono work to be done. And that is also the reason now not just the Supreme Court but various High Courts have cells that provide support to the needy people. So, for example if a trust comes to me for a representation on an appeal, I do it pro bono. If a needy individual comes to me, I do it without any fees and I think that's very very important. As far as education is concerned, I feel that the more we do on education particularly in our country, the better it is. Like as we say students are the future of the country and I think it's important to follow that in its spirit and its form.

Very fundamental message: all of us as human beings have to have a purpose in life. You ought to have a purpose in the legal profession as well. That in my view is very important. After, you have figured out what your purpose is, be passionate about it. Don't have a purpose which sounds fashionable for which you get pulled into just because you see that in someone else. Once you have a clear purpose in your life, you will figure out how to stay passionate to fulfil that purpose. Do not give up your curiosity of learning no matter how popular, how senior and how rich you become. The legal profession is all about continuous learning and continuous development.

The other advice that I would give to my members of the Indian legal profession is something I feel that the Western part of the world does better, which is that when you are in the legal profession, besides your technical skills do try and develop soft skills. I think we spoke about most of the soft skills whether it's networking or I spoke about communication, I spoke about developing public speaking skills, they are very important. Whether you are practicing in the courts or not. Please do not confuse sharpening your communication skills with representation in the court. Of course, you need advocacy skills when you are standing up in the court but you need it even when you are a solicitor because you know a document that is churned out by an English lawyer or an American lawyer in terms of it being error-free and the attention to detail it carries is far superior than what an Indian lawyer churns out. So, make sure you pay greater attention to details and embrace the concept of learning various facets of public policy. It's not just about law, it's all about public policy and economics as well. That is the only way you will develop yourself into a multidisciplinary lawyer as I call it.

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