In this interview, Nipun Bhatia, Vice President – Strategic Management & Process Redesigning at Legal League Consulting, shares his views on Business Development, what does it take to be reckoned as ‘Thought Leader’ and trends in the Indian Legal Industry. Nipun is a Chartered Account and Lawyer by qualification; and Management Consultant by profession.
Dedicated to transforming managerial & strategic functions of the legal industry, Legal League Consulting (LLC) is India’s first management consultancy to global legal industry and comprises of a team of about 20 professionals, devoted to identifying priorities, driving initiatives and crafting implementation plans for business performance and growth for Indian & International Law firms, LPOs and Legal Departments of large Indian & Multi-national Companies. Nipun’s mentor, Ms. Bithika Anand, is the Founder & CEO of Legal League Consulting and is reckoned as a true visionary in the bringing global best practices to Indian legal fraternity.
Legal Bites: Kindly describe in brief about Legal League Consulting and its services.
Mr. Bhatia: Legal League Consulting provides services across all facets of management for the legal industry, including Strategy and Business Planning, Partnership Structuring, Human Resources Development, Practice Development, Knowledge Management, Brand Enhancement and other related services. In the last 9 years, we have also been doing a lot of consolidation related work within Indian law firms including mergers as well as practice movements.
A large part of our work covers Equity/Partnership Structuring and we are frequently covered in the media for steering the winds of change in the legal fraternity. We are also known for creating robust platforms for convergence of business and law, by way of organizing sector-specific events and opportunities for knowledge sharing. Having worked with over 400 client organizations including Indian Law Firms, Corporate Departments and Foreign Law Firms, our expertise lies in all areas Strategy and Business Planning, Partnership Structuring, Practice Development, Alliances with Indian or Foreign Firms, Automation and Change Management; and Brand Strategy related work.
Legal Bites: You have been associated with legal fraternity for over ten years. What are the interesting trends you have observed during this decade?
Mr. Bhatia: The Indian legal sector has seen a 360-degree transformation over the last few years. Post the break-up of the largest law firm of the country, the fraternity has witnessed several movements where one or more teams leave and join from one firm to another, or in some cases, to set-up their own practice.
Another interesting trend is the way in which firms are exploring synergies. Large law firms are not only acquiring smaller practices but are also exploring synergies in the form of Referral Tie-Ups and Inter-Firm Cross Selling.
Firms are also exploring B-Towns to set-up their practices and widen their reach with the use of local resources. Firms are also recruiting specialists and niche practitioners to develop a multi-service regional model, rather than being a full-service firm with a presence throughout the country.
Partnership & Equity Structuring has come up in a big way and the kinds of firms exploring institutionalization range from well-established firms that are a century old to budding start-up firms. This, to my understanding, is to encourage entrepreneurship spirit amongst deserving talent and allowing merit-based partnerships. Firms are exploring global partnership models and are also increasingly inclined towards more professional set-up in legal practices, like have designated business support professionals (CEOs, CFOs, CIOs, COOs, etc.).
Technology is changing the way in which lawyers function. Artificial Intelligence (AI), Cloud Computing and Machine Learning, along with advanced tools and software, will lend profitability to operational aspects of law firm management. Automated Systems like, ERPs, CRM, e-books, etc. have already been adopted by the major law firms.
Legal Bites: As lawyers grow in the profession, ‘Business Development’ or ‘Rainmaking’ are always considered as desired competencies if they are to be reckoned as ‘successful’ in their career. Do you concur with this? Is there any secret formula towards Business Development?
Mr. Bhatia: Business Development is no rocket science. Being a good orator or having the personality type that impresses a client may standalone not be sufficient to ensure a perennial flow of work. Get into greater realms of what makes a difference to your client, read about sector-specific challenges their industry may be facing, focus your advice on the commercial viability rather than the plain interpretation of the law. The only formula for Business Development, and which is no secret, is to focus on ‘how can you make a difference in the life of a prospect’. The moment you are able to convince a prospect that you can turn their life around, you need not worry about work flowing to you. Of course, Business Development is a game of patience. Consistency is the keyword and one should be prepared for a gestation period.
Most lawyers tend to leave ground during period but the way to spearhead is to keep taking little initiatives to stay in touch with your prospects/clients and connect with them on non-work issues as well, say sending them legal updates, congratulating on their personal achievements/achievements of the Company, offering to conduct training sessions for their team/employees, etc. I ask the Partners as to how many times they connect with their clients at a macro level and have discussions with respect to their larger business vision – which new cities are they opening offices in, which new product or service lines are they launching, do they have massive expansion/hiring plans? Being deeply entrenched in their businesses will help you evaluate your own service offerings to them, which will be more relevant and aligned with their business vision.
Legal Bites: A large part of your work profile relates to helping lawyers become ‘Thought Leaders’ in their areas of practice. Do you think it is essential to build a ‘Brand Equity’? How do you achieve this and what does it cover?
Mr. Bhatia: I am extremely passionate about my craft and I feel privileged that I am able to assist lawyers in navigating through the landscape of becoming a ‘Thought Leader’. While I totally agree that any consulting business is person-oriented and relationships once built usually tend to be long-lasting, I also feel that clients are much more informed today. They seek value for money and sometimes, money is not even a constraint if the value proposition is robust. These are the times when varied platforms are available to demonstrate your expertise. Lawyers must utilize these platforms to extensively disseminate knowledge and write about the fields they practice in. This should also be done in order to spread awareness and ensure that knowledge reaches to those also who may not have the means for seeking suitable legal recourse.
In a developing economy like ours, the regulatory environment is in the state of constant flux. There are new notifications, circulars, clarifications and directions being issued every day. It is important to spread awareness about these new emerging areas. A lawyer must make in-roads to participate in macro factors affecting the industry, say policy making and engaging with relevant forums/organizations pertain to their area practice. Lawyers’ ‘Brand Equity’ is nothing but their ability to be reckoned as a ‘Specialist’ or ‘Thought Leader’ in their area practice and their level of trustworthiness in clients’ perception. Are you the need of hour during their hour of need? If the answer is affirmative, consider yourself arrived.