"Legal Services is a very competitive space.", says Sumes Dewan of Lex Favios, as he speaks to BW Legal World

In his interview to BW Legal World, Mr. Sumes Dewan, Founder and Managing Partner of Lex Favios tells us about his professional journey and the evolution of Lex Favios

BW Legal World: Mr. Dewan, thank you for giving us your precious time. We would like to start this interview by asking you about your professional journey. Please tell us when it started and how it progressed. 

My legal journey started in the year 1995 working as an Associate with Senior Counsel Mr. Harish Malhotra. Then, I moved to a law firm, Singhania & Co., where I was exposed to new areas of corporate law practice, which was still at its nascent stage. I consider both Mr. Ravi Singhania and Mr. Diljeet Titus as my mentors, and I was quite fortunate to work directly with the Senior Partners in the early years of my career. It exposed me to different areas of practice and also immensely helped shape my perspective. As I found my calling, the firm split, and I moved to a very promising and upcoming law Firm Titus & Co. 

I got the opportunity to work on some very high-profile transactions of those times, which ranged from large mergers, acquisitions, corporate commercial, infrastructure, regulatory practice, non-resident taxation. That deep exposure in the formative years helped shape my career.

Later, I moved to a start-up law firm, M/s K.R. Chawla & Co., and played an instrumental role in shaping the firm’s practice. I was instrumental in setting up firm’s office(s) in Bengaluru and Chennai, San Francisco, USA. It helped me in developing entrepreneurial skills and learning firm management. Then, as a Partner I moved to law firm(s) such as Fox Mandal and Desai & Diwanj, but the entrepreneurial bug had got me. I was looking to develop and grow a law firm, which could have the best practices. 

After eighteen years of working with other law firms, I was confident that I had been able to assimilate the strengths and learn from the weakness of law firms, and then, I took the entrepreneurial route. One of the key reasons for setting up Lex Favios was moving away from family law firms. In India most of the large law firms are still dominated or controlled by families, in which there is very little space for new ideas or a chance to actually bring art of law firm management of governance.

BW Legal World: So, in which year was Lex Favios founded? And, where did you set up your offices?

Lex Favios was founded in the year 2014, with the dream to set up an institution which not only provides legal advice to clients and undertakes legal services, but also is a recognized an exemplary institution, in the legal fraternity, wherein all members of the firm are stakeholders in the institution and collectively undertake to grow the organization to newer heights. 

I should especially make a mention of my ex-colleague, Ms. Yeshika Dublish, who contributed to the founding of Lex Favios. She was a crucial member of Lex Favios team during the start of the journey. She had to move to the USA after her marriage and is now a counsel with Google USA.

BW Legal World: What is the total strength of Lex Favios? Please also tell us about the areas of practice.

The firm has offices in Delhi and Mumbai, and has a team of 25 lawyers. The Lex Favios team comprises of a mix of experienced legal experts and young advocates and functions with a dynamism aimed at catering to the needs of our clients in the most customizable fashion.

The nature of the services Lex Favios offers span from corporate advisory to litigation, encompassing in its scope matters ranging from real estate, hospitality to banking & finance and dispute resolution including insolvency. 

The areas of practice are M&A, Real Estate, Debt Financing, Private Equity and assists corporates in terms of setting up business in India, obtaining regulatory approvals and licenses, handling joint venture/collaboration negotiations, setting up of investment funds, handling complex merger and acquisitions issues, negotiating large M&A contracts, The dispute resolution team assists with all issues pertaining to litigation, arbitration and insolvency matters.

BW Legal World: Which indeed means that the firm is present in all relevant practice areas. Among these areas of practice, which are the ones the firm specialises in? 

The firm, specifically, my own team, specializes in Foreign Investment in India, Project Financing, Real Estate, Corporate Laws, Joint Ventures, Cross Border Taxation Issues, Technology Transfer, Securities Law, SEBI Takeover Regulations, Banking and Finance and has been advising clients on issues relating to acquisition of both Indian and overseas companies including the foreign exchange and other governmental regulations applicable to such transactions; filing applications and obtaining clearances, with the various regulatory authorities; conducting legal due diligence; structuring the domestic and cross-border acquisition, with focus on issues such as tax management, determining the type of SPV, jurisdiction of SPV, type of instruments etc.; advising clients on various laws, rules and regulations applicable to the setting up of business operations in India; advising domestic and foreign clients in setting up joint ventures in India or overseas, including issues that are of critical significance to a joint venture, such as the nature of the entity to be set up, inter-se rights between the joint venture parties and the Indian legal, tax and exchange control implications.

Then, there is my colleague, Ms. Rupul Jhanjee, who heads the firm’s Banking and Finance practice. Her team specialises in project financing, corporate debt restructuring (CDR), Joint Lender Forum (JLF), Transaction Advisory. She has participated in the consortium meetings for finalization of the documents, handled and managed regulatory compliances under banks’ audits.

BW Legal World: What differentiates Lex Favios from other firms? 

In terms of the entrepreneurial ecosystem of India in the present date, the legal fraternity remains a competitive space. The Lex Favios team chooses to view such challenges as opportunities for betterment and refinement, to continue answering the question on how we may better serve the interests of our Clients. Lex Favios prides itself on being a one-stop for all issues and queries pertaining to legal nature. The Firm endeavours to provide real time solutions and a constant presence and comfort to its Clients, through all legal processes. The Firm is continuously looking to grow its portfolio of legal practices. It seeks to differentiate by implementing an unrelenting system of internal checks to ensure that the quality of services being churned out remain relevant and match the highest of expectations in the presently competitive space.

This differentiation is the reasons that the Firm has grown from strength to strength since its inception. 

BW Legal World: Any particular interesting engagements of the firm recently, which you would like to tell us about?

Lex Favios advised Alstom Bharat Forge Power in the SBI-led consortium providing working capital facilities of US$450 million. It represented the InterContinental Hotel Group for a deal to re-brand 14 hotels across 2000 rooms (operating and under construction) for the Holiday Inn Express brand across India. Our team also acted as Lender’s Legal Counsel for the SBI’s loans to Technique Solaire Invest 1 India Private Limited to the tune of INR  200 Million for its 5 MW solar unit situated in Uttarakhand and to MH Technique Solaire India Private Limited amounting to INR 540  Million for construction of a 20 MW Solar Power Project in Maharashtra.

BW Legal World: What are the challenges that your firm currently faces?

Lex Favios by virtue of being a relatively younger Law Firm, has faced challenges characteristic of any young entity chartering a course for itself in a growing industry. One of the key challenges faced is the competition from larger law firms, with both national and statewide law firms engaging in inter-jurisdictional client representation as the result of mergers and acquisitions of general practice and specialty firms, as well as from the increasing development of law firm networks and strategic alliances. 

Our Firm, to overcome the said challenge has tied up with international legal alliance network such as Legal Netlink Alliance and has also forged alliances with regional law firms in multiple cities in India and internationally. Nationally, law firms are facing the pressure to diverge from the traditional billable -hours model in favour of alternative billing models such as fixed, blended or capped fees and our Firm has also now fixed fee or capped fee models which make us more attractive for corporates to engage our services on regular basis. 

Retaining the right set of lawyers is a challenge for mid-sized firms, where they are constantly being poached by larger Firms having deep pockets. Ensuring that the Firm retains the talented lawyers with the right skill set can be challenging at times. At Lex Favios, we ensure that all lawyers are treated as family and are endowed with a deep sense of belongingness. The Firm invests in both legal training and soft skills of lawyers, and is constantly ensuring the provision of a conducive atmosphere and work environment, which goes a long way in retaining talent.

BW Legal World: What advice can you give lawyers who want to set up their own law firms? 

In attempting to chart a course for themselves in the legal fraternity, my advice to the next generation of lawyers would be to truly understand the importance of the values of hard work, perseverance, and human relationships, whether they be your legal associates or your clients. If you do that, any venture you build, will automatically succeed.

(The Indian National Bar Association awarded Lex Favios the ‘Capital & Finance Market – Law Firm of the Year’ award in 2016, India Business Law Journal awarded the Firm the ‘Best New Law Firms’ award in 2016 and has consecutively received IFLR1000’s award for the Financial and Corporate Notable Firm in the IFLR1000 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020   rankings. India Business Law Journal identified Lex Favios as one of India’s rising law firms in 2017.)

Mr. Sumes Dewan, Managing Partner of Lex Favios has been named in Asia Law’s Leading Lawyers survey 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 as one of the most highly-acclaimed legal experts in the Asia-Pacific region in the practice area – Capital Markets & Corporate Finance. He is one of few lawyers in India to be admitted as an Honorary Fellow of the Association of Fellows and Legal Scholars, Center for International Studies, and Member of Congress of Fellows of the Center for International Legal Studies. 

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