In Conversation With Nipun K Bhatiaa, President-Strategic Legal Management, Legal League Consulting |BW Legal World 40 Under 40
In this fireside chat with Chandril Chattopadhyay, Junior Correspondent, BW Legal World, Nipun talks about his glorious journey in law. He talks about his growth as a leader in the industry, his mentors and much more.
Many Congratulations on winning the BW Legal World 40 under 40. How was your experience interacting with the Jury and of the event?
NKB: Thank you. To be honest, I was slightly nervous while waiting for the jury round because it is always difficult to sum up the experience of a decade and a half within two minutes. The best thing, however, I did was to make it more conversational and attend the jury meeting without rehearsing a speech or flow. I wanted the conversation to be authentic and straight from the heart. I recall I started by highlighting why I should make it to the coveted list. I was representing the minority of non-practicing lawyers and legal influencers – this win would be the one for the entire community and would give courage to others to experiment, take risks, and challenge convention. The event was also very well organized, with enriching sessions and roundtables, true to the theme “Levers of Change in the Legal Ecosystem for 2023”. I am glad that I was also invited to speak at the panel discussion titled “Business & Law of EdTech”, which I thoroughly enjoyed given my affinity towards the education sector and the students.
Please walk us through your journey in the field of law? When did you first realize that law was your life’s calling?
NKB:I am a firm believer in the famous saying, "What you seek is seeking you". Throughout my journey, I've been fortunate to witness how pieces of my life have effortlessly fallen into place, much like missing parts of a puzzle. While halfway through my Chartered Accountancy (CA) course, I made the decision to pursue law, driven by the concern that I might not successfully navigate the final stages of the CA program, given the challenging qualification rates each year. My initial motivation for pursuing law was to secure a professional degree and avoid being left without a solid foundation. However, what began as a contingency plan soon evolved into my true passion. Engaging in regular law classes at college sparked a deep interest within me, surpassing the allure of chartered accountancy. Although I successfully completed both the CA and law exams, I became aware that my true calling lay in the field of law.
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?
NKB:I think what has helped me emerge as a leader in my area of law firm management and management consulting is a combination of factors. First, the very fact that Legal League Consulting introduced the concept of law firm management to India allowed me to gain significant experience and knowledge over the course of my career. The variety of the firms we have worked with and the nature of assignments we have worked on allowed us to develop a deep understanding of the working of law firms and has positioned us as a trusted authority in our field. Second, I have always respected and valued the diversity and perspectives of industry colleagues, peers, and stakeholders. You can’t be an impactful management consultant unless you listen to the problem statements of the clients, brainstorm on solutions, and work towards achieving the results. For all our clients, we have functioned as the extended arm of their internal teams, a quality that helps us come up with solutions for ‘us’ and not ‘them’. Lastly, the constant shedding of skin has helped us constantly evolve. When you’re catering to a sector where change is an everyday phenomenon, you can’t rest on your laurels. Coaching for lawyers, Partner-mentoring, Growth Advisory, Law Firm Mergers, and Conflict Resolution/Mediation solutions for conflicts between lawyers and law firms are some of our service offerings that were introduced because of the huge demand pull from the clients.
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?
NKB:I’d say by far the most monumental step in recent times is the recent decision of the Bar Council of India to permit the entry of foreign law firms to India (although with caveats and conditions!). This development will definitely disrupt the legal sector that has so far been kept completely away from reforms that are perhaps long due. However, only time will tell the extent of the impact and the timeline within which the impact will come to be noticed. Allowing foreign firms to practice in India is like taking a leap of faith. Perhaps, this could inject new blood into the legal system, and bring in new ideas, new practices, and new opportunities. And my only hope is that when we open the doors to global competition, we also create a level playing field in the homeland. Indian law firms and lawyers are less than none in the world in terms of their knowledge and acumen. But do they have the same opportunities, rights, and access to resources and markets as their foreign counterparts? Perhaps the Bar Council of India will seriously consider removing barriers or restrictions on the web presence and active business development to ensure fair competition between Indian and foreign lawyers. As for Indian law firms and lawyers, while it is important to drive up standards across the board, I hope they remain willing to embrace change, adapt to new realities, and seize new opportunities.
What are the top three trends that are going to rule the legal sector for the next five years?
NKB:The legal sector in India is experiencing transformative changes that reflect the evolving nature of the industry. Law firms are adapting their strategies to remain ahead of the curve. The three emerging trends that are likely to impact the legal landscape over the next five years are:
Firstly, there will be a discernible rise in the popularity of mid-tier, boutique, and niche law firms. These firms are characterized by their specialized expertise, offering clients tailored and personalized legal services. Because of more Partner time and personal involvement of the Founders, without the client having to go through layers of hierarchy, these firms pack a punch above their weight. To add to it, a lean team and a niche practice allow them to be more agile and responsive to clients' changing needs, giving them a competitive edge over their larger counterparts.
Secondly, the consolidation of diverse practices through handshakes, mergers, acquisitions, and referral alliances is becoming prevalent. Law firms are weighing merging with or acquiring smaller firms to expand their client base and reach. This trend is expected to continue in the coming years as law firms seek to grow their businesses and remain competitive in the market, and also to combat any potential impact of entry of foreign law firms to India.
Lastly, law firms are adopting a performance-driven approach to talent management in India. This involves replacing underperforming teams with higher-performing ones to improve the overall quality of service delivery. This strategy enables firms to attract and retain top talent in an intensely competitive marketplace.
Who according to you has been your guide and mentor in this illustrious journey as a lawyer?
NKB:My guide and my mentor in my journey as a lawyer, has been none other than the iconic Bithika Anand – a name that perhaps requires no introduction. She founded Legal League Consulting, way back in 2010, when the concept of professional business support in law firms was largely unheard of. She brought the concept of law firm management to the fore in India. We were the first ones in the country to have ventured into applying management concepts to law firms, an idea that was prevalent internationally. In a sector that was largely run on the instinct and individual management style of founders, Bithika started the trend of professionally run and managed law firms. There is so much to learn from her, every day. I learned a valuable lesson from her early in my career: "Honesty is the best service to clients". It means being truthful to your clients, even if it means challenging their views, delivering hard news, or even keeping service above fee. This lesson has served me well throughout my journey and has helped me move forward on my path with just the right mindset.
As a parting note, would you please recommend a favourite book that left a lasting impression on you? What has been your most recent read?
NKB:A book that left a lasting impression on me is “Ask And It Is Given” by Esther Hicks and Jerry Hicks. This book introduced me to the power of positive thinking and believing in manifestation. This not only became my favorite reading genre but also gave me immense strength during trying times. My most recent reads, however, have been around Christianity and the history of Jesus Christ. While I constantly read “The Holy Bible” (both the New and the Old Testaments), I also support the readings with a book called “The Bible Book”, a book published by Penguin Random House, that explains various chapters of the Bible and “A Course in Miracles”, a book published by Foundation of Inner Peace, that helps you believe in and manifest miracles in your life through love and light.
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