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Ashima Ohri

A business economist, lawyer, and writer.

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'There has been significant progress on a range of parameters that had earlier kept investor interest in India’s renewable power generation sector fairly subdued'— Hemant Sahai

Hemant Sahai, the Founding Partner of HSA Advocates speaks with Ashima Ohri, Managing Editor, BW Legal World about his journey in law, key learnings from the year past, and his predictions for the future.

Hemant, how has the legal services industry transformed in the past year? What have been your key learnings from the year past and what are your predictions for the future? 

Law firms were already in a period of unprecedented change brought on by advances in technology and evolving client expectations. Covid-19 and its aftermath has accelerated the change manifold and underlined the need for an exceptionally nimble approach towards managing resources and clients. Our key learnings have centered on using data and technology to enable better focus on collaboration, client outreach, resource utilization, performance management, and other aspects which help us improve our client engagement and operating efficiency. Going forward, I believe legal services delivery and lawyer’s role will continue to evolve, with a clear premium put on differentiated expertise. The legal ecosystem will need to become more agile, collaborative, and solutions-oriented to ensure continuing relevance and growth.

Covid-19 and its aftermath has accelerated the change manifold and underlined the need for an exceptionally nimble approach towards managing resources and clients. Our key learnings have centered on using data and technology to enable better focus on collaboration, client outreach, resource utilization, performance management, and other aspects which help us improve our client engagement and operating efficiency.

We have seen a spate of legislative changes in recent years that have been monumental in reforming India's legal framework across all sectors. Would you please highlight a recent development concerning your practice area that has positively impacted the industry?  

Of late, there has been an intense focus on the renewable energy sector, where HSA’s experience is truly unparalleled. There has been significant progress on a range of parameters that had earlier kept investor interest in India’s renewable power generation sector fairly subdued. Through policy intervention and other aspects, key risks pertaining to project development (well-developed network of EPC contractors and an established chain of procurement, supply, import, transport, erection, and commissioning), equipment supply (proven network of imported/domestic module suppliers, inverters and BOS (Balance of Systems) providers), land acquisition, financing (100% FDI under automatic route and abundant local capital to eliminate currency fluctuation risk), energy off-take arrangements, project exits have been addressed over the last few years, which underscores the present investor interest in this sector. We have helped shape this policy landscape through our work with the government and representing clients in matters which created critical precedents over the last few years.

There has been significant progress on a range of parameters that had earlier kept investor interest in India’s renewable power generation sector fairly subdued.

Rewinding time: please allow us a peek into your illustrious journey in law. Where did this journey begin, who were your mentors, and are there any goals that remain to be achieved? 

Since starting the firm with a clear focus on providing outcome-oriented solutions to clients, we have had our share of successes and highlights. We have valued and rejoiced in our successes. We have also dealt with our share of disappointments with stoicism. we believe that we are justifiably proud of what we have achieved in this span of time. Some of the highlights are that today, we are consistently ranked amongst the top law firms in the country and these rankings are not based on the size of the firm but on the quality of our work and transactions. We are increasingly being recognised for our work beyond our traditional strengths of regulatory disputes, projects, and infrastructure. Even though we are a reasonably large firm today, we pride ourselves more on the quality and depth of our team, quality of transactions and clients that we service. Many of these assignments are path-breaking and have set the tone for evolution of and maturing of diverse sectors in the Indian economy.


While we are on the subject, many Congratulations on winning the BW Legal World Global Legal Leaders Award for the year 2020. How was your experience interacting with the Jury and of the event? 

I am extremely gratified for HSA being recognized as the ‘Policy Law Firm of the Year’. Being selected by the eminent jury members made the award especially meaningful to my partners and myself. Two of my partners – Shreshth Sharma and Puja Priyadarshini – accepted the award on behalf of the firm and entire team, and they were quite appreciative about how well organized the event was, especially when the whole event was conducted remotely. I would like to congratulate your team and wish them all the best for similar events in the future. 

Needless to state, an award of this stature from an organization of repute is to be cherished, and it also reinforces the confidence in our abilities and approach to clients.

I am extremely gratified for HSA being recognized as the ‘Policy Law Firm of the Year’.Being selected by the eminent jury members made the award especially meaningful to my partners and myself.

What would you say has helped you emerge as a leader in your industry and what advice would you have for others who want to set off in a similar direction?  

We have always worked to short-term targets, medium-term plans, and a long-term vision, and this approach has guided our efforts toward scaling up, building the right teams, and attracting the right talent. Today, we have built a full-service firm that occupies the pole position in some practice areas in the country and is actively striving for cementing our credentials in others. My advice would be to focus on the fundamentals – a clear vision of where you want to go, uncompromising focus on quality, honest (and frequent) assessment of your strengths and areas of improvement, an empowered team to walk the path with you and the ability to constantly adapt to the changing environment around us.

Law firm practice of the future: LegalTech tools that are transforming the traditional methods of legal practice in India. 

Modern law firms are increasingly leveraging technology to improve management, resource efficiency, data security, and overall productivity. Our recent focus has been on increasing inter-office connectivity and cross-practice engagement by leveraging technology. Promoting collaboration using the entire suite of features contained in Office 365 suite has been a significant achievement. Practice league platform which offers operational analytics and centralized databases to capture, process, and analyze information has allowed for objective, data-driven decision making in terms of our client outreach, staffing, billing, matter execution, and a range of other aspects. Resource allocation from a fungible pool using data from a time management platform, a third-party platform for online contract review using machine learning and AI have helped in the management of the firm’s legal work. Our lawyers now use a cloud-based document management and sharing platform to avoid repletion and redundancy in their work, which saves significant time and effort.

Modern law firms are increasingly leveraging technology to improve management, resource efficiency, data security, and overall productivity.

What role in your opinion can law, law firm, or an individual play in making workplaces truly diverse and inclusive.  

Diversity and inclusivity often tend to be deconstructed into gender ratios and other similar parameters – it is really much more than that. To my mind, inclusion is about building a culture that empowers people, addresses employee concerns in an objective manner, and encourages everyone to speak up and be heard. The initiative to making workplaces truly diverse and inclusive starts from educating the leaders about the same and ensuring a continuing focus on these aspects at the workplace and beyond. 

An experience, case, or person that left a lasting impression on you. 

In Henry Ford’s words “Life is a series of experiences, each one of which makes us bigger, even though sometimes it is hard to realize this. For the world was built to develop character, and we must learn that the setbacks and grieves which we endure help us in our marching onward.” It has been a series of experiences that have shaped me over the years and enabled me to help HSA become a recognized name in the legal fraternity. As always, the basic idea has been to cherish the good ones and learn from mistakes. 


What keeps you busy when you’re not working? A favourite book or movie/series that you'd like to recommend to our readers. 

Well, I started flying aircraft as an amateur pilot a few years ago. That is fulfillment of an old passion! I firmly believe that if one were to focus on just one thing, then the person tends to become monochromatic. Over the years, my involvement with motorcycles and riding have been a vital part of my non-work life. Outdoors and travel have been an important part of my make up and is an important tool to keep me grounded.

Well, I started flying aircraft as an amateur pilot a few years ago. That is fulfillment of an old passion! I firmly believe that if one were to focus on just one thing, then the person tends to become monochromatic.


Any other thoughts, message to our readers. What other than hard work is a mantra to success?

First off, I would like to wish your readers good health in these trying times. While remaining highly focused on one's career and goals is imperative, making time for family, health and hobbies is vital for long-term growth and avoiding burnout as we chase our professional dreams. Speaking for myself, I believe that success is the outcome of professional expertise and a positive attitude, and the latter should not be relegated to a secondary position. While the journey of a thousand miles does indeed begin with that first step, persistence and discipline help ensure that we follow that first step with countless more as we march toward our goals.

While the journey of a thousand miles does indeed begin with that first step, persistence and discipline help ensure that we follow that first step with countless more as we march toward our goals.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house



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