This summary is written by Ansh Agal, from Symbiosis Law School, Pune.
Guest: Mr. Ameya Salatry was the Former Advanta India General Manager – Legal, and has established the first Corporate Law Firm in goa – Legal Minds LLP. The firm focuses on niche domains including Real Estate, Contracts, Corporate & Transactional Advisory, Banking & Business Finance, and Licensing and Intellectual Property and it has lawyers and “corporate affairs professionals” on an “affiliation basis” in Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad. This firm has a very close connection with LawSikho as Mr. Ameya was hired by LawSikho on past occasions and also some LawSikho students are currently working with Mr. Ameya.
Host: This session was moderated by Mr Ramanuj Mukherjee, who is a Corporate Lawyer turned Entrepreneur and CEO of http://iPleaders.in. Mr. Ramanuj Mukherjee is a serial entrepreneur who is involved with several education start-ups like iPleaders, CLAThacker, BarHacker, Superlawyer, and Lawsikho.
In this session, Mr. Ameya Salatry shared his opinion and views on the question – How to build a law firm in a small city like Goa in the face of big cities like Mumbai and Bangalore where primarily, all the law firms are based. He will also shed insights on his overall journey as a lawyer and a professional.
The questions and answers which followed in the session are as follows –
How was your journey as a student and a lawyer before Legal Minds LLP?
He starts off with his family background where he mentions that his father and his was also a lawyer. He says that in goa, the law practice is more of inheritance in nature. He is a graduate of ILS Law College, Mumbai. He then describes his initial litigation life in Mumbai. Then he went to the US to complete his masters in law in Chicago. He finally moved back to India after working in Dubai and then with a Dubai Based Aviation Law Firm. His opinion is that in Top tier law firms, the people don’t get a chance to work across areas of practice, which is totally possible in an In-House Lawyer post. He urges the youngsters to not simply go to a law firm and hope for a quick growth. Its very important for them to gain experiences as an In-house lawyer where they would really understand a business aspect of things. He says that working in places like goa helps the lawyers to build a kind of relationship of trust which would be lacking in big cities.
What kind of work exists in the legal landscape in a place like goa?
Goa was majorly big on two things – mining and hospitality & real estate. The lawyer fraternity in goa is mostly engaged in real estate and inheritance. The Portuguese Code of Law is also a different thing when it comes to the subject of inheritance. There has been a surge in the number of Start-ups in goa and therefore a lot of due diligence and retaining work is to be done with these start-ups.
How do you get clients in a place like Goa? Even with remote technology access.
It takes a lot of effort for companies coming from outside to set up in goa. Therefore, Legal Minds used to help such companies. Also, they have gone out of goa with their networks, interacting with other people at events and other businesses. These, couples with some major businesses who are situated in goa but are unaware about a corporate law firm based in goa gives a base for clients. Start-ups is also a very good potential market in and outside goa. MNAs for family-driven businesses is also a good area, especially when the ideal thinking is that this work is done by firms in the big cities only. Reaching out to people and making them aware about the services offered is the best way to get clients. There is also a rising trend of mergers and acquisitions in Goa.
In case of Tourism Industry, what kinds of work exists apart from Investments in Projects?
In this industry, casinos and their related issues is a major part of legal work, and some cases of litigation related to tourism. Apart from that, there is not much work apart from investments.
What is the case of Gaming Industry in Goa?
There has been a paradigm shift in this industry. There has been government notifications as well wherein they have allowed online gaming (in these times as affected by COVID-19) but on a condition that these games requires skills and not chance to win. With the situation of COVID-19 in place, there will a major shift in all the types of industries, even gaming as well. When mining industry went down, Casinos were the saving grace, but there is not much work in this area. Casinos usually reach out to the tier 1 and 2 cities and therefore, there is not much work as of now, but with the casinos in place, there will be a rise in work in various aspects of running the casinos.
While looking at the litigation landscape in Goa, what kind of matters are frequent?
Arbitration is an area which has exponentially mushroomed in the last 4-6 years. In terms of quantity, there are a lot of motor vehicles and real estate related cases. The Real-Estate part includes almost all the aspects – from rent to title. To add to the confusion is the Portuguese Civil Code in place. Maritime and mercantile laws and other commercial laws are also in practice here.
What were challenges faced in the initial part of setting up the practice in Goa?
Particularly in a tier 3 or 4 area, it takes a lot of time for people to give their trust, and this is a very big aspect of building up the practice. This interface takes times and careful handling. A very aspect of that is to not limit our services to just one thing. Wider services, though not easy, provides a better base for building trust. In a place like Goa, or any tier 3 or 4 city, a person with experience and a wide base helps in establish the practice because this is very much required in such places.
What are the challenges faced in building a right kind of team in such a place?
The current size of the team in Legal Minds LLP is 10. This also had its own set of challenges, because in a place like goa, the youngsters had a tendency to go into litigation under various counsels. So finding the right kind of team took its own time. And now there are also a couple of Company Secretaries in Legal Minds LLP.
What were the challenges faced while training the team? Especially when you are trying to scale up?
This is a challenge in a set up like the Legal Minds and a place like Goa, its very difficult to train. Therefore, there are many layers in place to check and crosscheck work done by different people to ensure that the standards are met but they also learn to meet those standards themselves.
How to evolve the practice? How to develop the business further?
The business strategies are always flexible. There is no particular strategy and we always cater to the current need. But today, the goals and the strategies are set, because a certain goal and some objectives are set, and all the relevant opportunities are only looked at, wherever possible. The present strategy is to pick and choose work.
How has the business development model changed from what it was in the beginning?
The business development model in the beginning was essentially marketing all the skills available to get as much work as possible. But now, the focus will only be on the target areas of practice on which the focus should be, and all the past experiences are used to target the certain areas. For Legal Minds LLP, the near future targets are Start-ups and Investment Bankers. The near future strategy (owing to the past experience gained) would be to reach out to the sector specific or area specific agencies to work with, and to grow the practice only in the desired area.
From a strategic point of view, what things worked out?
The first thing was the factor of sincerity and transparency. This thing, when upheld, becomes one of the keys to success. The second most important thing is the research. Because research shows the sincerely and the novelty of the work and it also helps the client to build confidence and trust with the lawyer or the firm.
What may be the challenges going forward? What are the challenges still faced?
If we keep the coronavirus situation aside, the main challenge is scalability. Because places such as goa are small, therefore to get work, you need to reach out more. When it comes to the Covid-19 situation, there is going to be a lot of advisory in litigation which is going to come. It may be any sector, the volume of legal advisory will be shoot up in comparison to litigation because people may no longer want to afford the litigation.
Isn’t business development – Soliciting?
Business development is not itself barred and it’s a lot different from soliciting. Business development is essentially telling what you have been doing as compared to soliciting which means that you are going and asking for work. Soliciting is unfair but business development is different. Its an essential part of any law practice. But it should be ethical. There are many ways of business development and those ways are all ethical, which is good as compared to soliciting.
How does UCC affect civil litigation in Goa?
UCC does not affect litigation, but it is a foundation for disputes. It affects litigation on case to case basis. But its principles are widely used to settle disputes.
Scope for litigation is more or real estate?
The scope for both is almost equal. Real estate’s scope is going to boom now looking at the current situation and how Goa coped up with it.
Does UCC replace Portuguese Civil Code?
UCC does not replace Portuguese Civil Code because its only related to the family laws and inheritance whereas all the other matters are governed by the UCC. Especially the titles disputes.
What is the scope of NDPS Practice in Goa?
This is a pretty big practice in the Criminal Law. Its scope is good enough. It is also prevalent in Maritime laws.
What authorities are based in Goa and where can a budding lawyer start a practice?
The Relevant NCLT and Trademark Registry are in Bombay. But the Administrative and Labour Tribunals are based in Goa. Also, the Tax authority is in Goa. In Goa, there is a dearth of Tax Lawyers, so this is one area where anyone based out of Goa can pursue.
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