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This article has been written by Ankur Mukherjee, from Brainware University.

Introduction

Guest Speakers : Mathew Chacko and Praveen Raju are partners of Spice Route Legal which is a highly respected firm having affiliations with PAN India and other foreign countries. Aadya Mishra is the lawyer from the top notch law firm at Spice Route Legal.  

The Host : Ramnauj Mukherji is an alumnus of the National University of Judicial Sciences, Kolkata. He is the CEO of LawSikho and co-founder of iPleaders. His previous work experience includes being part of the Private Equity and M&A Team at Trilegal, Mumbai.

How do you see yourself in a law firm which makes you better?

Getting a job in a top law firm is the dream destination for most law graduates. The big law firms give you big pay cheques and a chance to work on big cases that may even get press and TV attention. Working at a big law firm gives you a posh lifestyle and a chance to hob-nob with the leading businessmen and celebrities. It’s difficult for a twenty-something to not be lured by this razzle-dazzle. 

However, these ‘big law firms’ promising monthly salaries of 12 lakh and above per year do not have more than 200 jobs on offer, every year. Yes, there are smaller, well-run firms that provide good salaries and a similar lifestyle, but even with them onboard we don’t have more than 400 high-paying law firm jobs available for fresh law graduates. These jobs are (unfortunately) likely to go to top graduates from the best NLUs, some overachievers from other good law schools and to students whose relatives have the desired contacts. While they expect themselves to be working on big deals and mergers and acquisitions right from the start, the reality is often different. Initially, a job in a law firm might involve doing a lot of ‘filings’, working on ‘due diligence’ related tasks or working on template-based contracts. The work of a junior associate is not usually interesting. Surprisingly, law students do not seem to figure this out from their internships and there are two reasons for this. 

Firstly, in as little a period as one month, interns do not get to delve deep into the workings of a corporate law firm.For the majority of the population, they get sold on a false dream. Secondly, the peer pressure to join a top law firm is huge. Peer pressure can make you do funny things even when it doesn’t feel right.

What is your USP that makes you stand out in a very crowded legal market?

It is essential for any law firm to have a unique selling proposition (aka unique selling point) to ensure the life of the business. In a highly competitive market, a unique selling proposition is the reason clients buy your service. In simple language, your uniqueness will stand out in a crowded legal market. 

A USP will differentiate you from the competition and will bring you clients.
Therefore, your USP must be a wide-ranging, compelling and appealing message to your market. USP can work like magic; or it can destroy your position in the legal market if the wrong one is chosen. Your USP will help you build a profitable law practice and will keep your business thriving.

The first point when deciding your USP is deciding what your main promise is to your prospective clients. Finding your main promise is a vital part of your law firm. It is better to be an intellectual when describing the service or solution you provide to your prospective client. Your USP must be the first detail a client remembers about your business. The unique selling proposition has to be short, memorable and expressed exactly the way you want clients to remember. A unique selling proposition must explain your law firm’s unique service. The service you offer must be one of a kind. Many business owners attempt to think like their clients by looking at values, needs, problems and beliefs. It is a big help in creating an appealing USP. An important part of a successful USP is making a promise to your clients. Your USP can be verbalized, however, this promise you make to your clients should be put in writing. Form your USP so that it’s most effective. 

Include powerful ad-words and highly visual adjectives that will directly communicate to the clients. Don’t verify your USP with your family, but with your client. Find out what he thinks and ask for feedback on how to improve your statement. Don’t ask for feedback from just one client; instead ask for feedback from 50 or more of your clients. USP is a legal marketing message used to show how you want to serve your clients.

Explain your experiences about the last 3 years and which makes you proud?

Spice Route Legal was founded on the idea that modern trade and commerce do not respect jurisdictional boundaries or compartmentalized competence. The firm is composed of an experienced team of lawyers who regularly advise on contentious and non-contentious matters. Starting from scratch to the very end there has been tremendous growth in this firm.   

What is the process of dealing with the pricing pressure from clients?

For high court cases, lawyers charge anything between Rs 3 – Rs 6 lakh a hearing.  If the lawyer has to travel to other high courts, then the charges could be anywhere between Rs 10 lakh- Rs 25 lakh. For cases in trial court, lawyers generally bill the client for the entire case, sometimes as much as Rs 10 lakh. 

How can you overcome the fear of losing a number of junior lawyers while training them in an organization?

Lawyers handle critical cases for their clients. Very often dignity, honour, life, property and liberty of clients depend on the efficiency of a lawyer. Lawyers are like surgeons in this way. One wrong move of the scalpel and the surgeon can end up killing, maiming or irreparably harming the patient. Lawyers are also in a very similar position. Because of one mistake of a lawyer, someone can go to jail, or lose money or property, or a criminal who deserves to go to jail may be released on the road free to commit more crimes. Lawyers are under massive performance pressure all the time that comes with the job. The military is trained on how to handle high pressure situations. Cricketers have psychologists and coaches who work with them to ensure that they can perform well in high pressure situations.

How do you give equal opportunity to women in your firm?

There has been an increase of women in the workforce and they have bigger aspirations than they had 10 years ago. The biggest pool of resources are women on the cusp of becoming managers/ mid managers and this is also where the biggest challenge lays, as personal pressures supersedes ambition. 

Mid management is where the largest number of women leave the workforce. The long hours at work conflict with responsibilities at home. Women feel societal pressure to conform to established gender roles. There are conflicts and checkpoints at every milestone of her life between career and family.  There is a need for female role models from non-urban regions. The women in these regions are also actively considering careers but the mindset and work culture is completely different to the big cities. They need local heroes to look up to. Everybody’s story is unique. Bring men into the conversation. For women to succeed, men must be brought into the conversation. 

Awareness, sponsorship, mentorship and advocacy are crucial for female empowerment in the workplace. Work life balance is not something that is only relevant to women, men can also benefit from it. The lack of flexible working and not having the confidence to say ‘no’, puts tremendous pressure on women to juggle their responsibilities to their families. Men and women compete for progression within the business at all levels. This competition is unequal as a woman is still mainly responsible for childcare and domestic tasks. This affects her ability to fully commit to a career and family. Culturally, although gender roles are changing it will take time to cascade naturally. Companies can help by becoming less reliant on a face-to-face culture and implementing flexible working policies for both genders. This will also help male colleagues understand the challenges faced by women. 

Women should have the choice to take a break or sabbatical from work if they want to concentrate on their family life. When they return to the workforce they should be provided with support and tools to transition back to work. The benefits to an organisation when hiring returners include an untapped potential of a highly skilled and engaged workforce ready to take the next step in their career.

Questions by audience

Do you have an equal opportunity to make a partner?

There are no formalities for a business relationship to become a general partnership. This means you don’t have to have anything in writing for a partnership to form. The key factors are two or more people who are carrying on as co-owners and sharing profits. Even if you don’t intend to be a partnership, if that’s how you hold yourself out to the public, then your relationship will be deemed a partnership and all partners will be liable for the obligations of the partnership (see liability issues below). 

Although there’s no requirement for a written partnership agreement, often it’s a very good idea to have such a document to prevent internal squabbling (about profits, direction of the company, etc.) and give the partnership solid direction. Limited liability partnerships do have a writing requirement. It’s a document that states that a limited partner has invested money into the partnership and retains little or no control over the partnership’s operations. In this way, limited partners will not be held liable for the partnership’s debt obligations and the partnership won’t be influenced too greatly by the limited partner.

Why is that fresher undergraduates have to serve a no stipend tenure before being engrossed as an associate?    

It is evident that any law firm which is considering any passel of prospective hire will opt for someone who is profitable in terms of bringing in services and dealing with clients.  Every law firm is going to talk and inquire into depth with the bound of legal constrictions, like while interviewing any non-traditional candidate they can ask why they want to practice law, the strength and the skills they have, how much supervision they will need etc. They can grill them about their interpersonal skills like till what extent they can hustle, about their go get it attitude, teamwork and leadership.

How do fresher’s apply to your firm?

Spice Route Legal welcomes everyone to learn, train and make the best out of their career. Interested candidates are invited to send their resume and writing samples to [email protected]


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