Yesterday once more…
In this interview with Sweta (Author Tub.asia), Bhumesh Verma speaks about his enterprising Journey from the earlier days as a student, experiences on various assignments, starting up as an Independent practitioner, guiding and motivating people who have come along so far. A must read for all the budding lawyers looking forward to work with Law firms, Corporate and Legal Entrepreneurs
A quick Introduction?
Ans. My introduction is quite tricky. First things first, I am a law student with some experience. Then, my name is Bhumesh Verma which is quite unique (haven’t seen or known anyone else with this name). As for my role, I wear different hats for different people, you can say I have an MPD (multiple personality disorder). I am an (i) adviser-cum-friend-cum-partner for business associates and clients; (ii) helping hand-cum-mentor for startup founders; and (iii) friend, philosopher, guide, mentor and guest teacher for students.
What is your success story?
I have no success story, only a story of determination, confidence, hard work and struggle. I had no legal background or contacts in the profession. The profession was not as open for all 25 years back as it is today. Therefore, I always had to work harder than my peers to come up to expectations and not allowing myself to grow any complexes. Being an (obsessively) self-made man, I would accept nothing from parents and bought my first scooter with a loan from my office whereas some of my peers would come to office in chauffeur-driven cars at the beginning of their careers.
So, how do you feel today after putting in these years in the profession?
Today I can bask myself in a little satisfaction that today, clients and professionals know me by my name and I do not require a big brand name behind me. This indicates that what I’ve been doing through years was right and professional.
After a successful career with big law firms, why did you choose to venture into starting your own law firm?
There are broadly two types of professionals – those who dream and those who chase their dreams. 90% of professionals are happy and content being ‘workers’ and getting a good paycheque every month. Many of my peers were (and are) happy doing what they were assigned and as a result, have made multiple times the money compared to me and enjoyed benefits and luxuries that come along with a big brand name!
I, on the other hand, have been ambitious and been chasing my dreams throughout. Mere money (golden handcuffs, as I say) has not been able to restrict my ambitions or bought my contentment or loyalty. I always wanted to do more with life as each one of us has a very limited time on this planet. I’ve had the pleasure of working with some of the greatest Indian law firms, yet I wanted to do different things like teaching, writing, imparting knowledge. Some of this would be unconventional or even conflicting with one’s role as a partner in a law firm.
Therefore, I wanted a vehicle which I could run the way I want with flexibility as to fee structure, more personalized attention of partners to smallest of matters, customized offering to clients where they feel valued and not fleeced. In addition, it allows me to follow my passion for writing and giving some time to education.
Tell us more about Corp Comm Legal.
Corp Comm Legal is a rare independent boutique-cum-full service law firm with non-exclusive relationships with several international law firms. We have a galaxy of Indian and foreign clients and we provide end to end advisory services pertaining to corporate/commercial, IPR, HR, litigation and so on. Every client is valued irrespective of the transaction and fee size and our aspiration are to be the firm of the first choice of our clients.
How does it feel to be ranked among top lawyers and law firms in India?
As a principle, we do not pay for (i) publishing any of our articles or interviews; (ii) speaker slots by sponsoring any events; (ii) getting jury slots in moot courts or award functions and so on.
Still, if some publications or websites rank me or us among the top ones, it demonstrates a great confidence in us on part of the clients and global law firms we have been working with and we accept it with all humility.
Such recognition not only confers an honor on us but cast an obligation on us to be more sincere and honest in our efforts to make clients feel valued. We are nothing but the trustee for our clients.
You are an author of a book “DRAFTING OF COMMERCIAL AGREEMENTS”- Please tell us about your book and how did you manage your time between writing a book and running a Law Firm?
There is a wide gap between the academic knowledge imparted at our law and management institutes and practical skillset required at the workplace (be it a law firm or a corporate house). Deal-making is integral to all corporate lawyers per se and non-lawyers in management positions. They all need to read, review, draft or negotiate (one or more of these) agreements. Even litigation lawyers require knowledge of agreements to come up with solutions for their clients. Therefore, all these require knowledge of drafting and review of agreements. However, I would always hear a complaint that there was no book which could explain these aspects in a simple language to lawyers and non- lawyers. I then decided to put my experience and knowledge in writing.
So, this is a book that comes from my mind and heart. I kept typing my experiences at any point of non-office hours for about 6 months and then structured it in form of the book in a very simple language and conversation format on only drafting skills. No heavy and boring law teaching, just discussion about what to do (and not to do) while drafting or reviewing agreements.
No wonder, the book got an amazing response from students, lawyers, and non-lawyers. The second edition is in pipeline.
And then, how did you get involved with legal education?
Well, I have been taking guest lectures on and off with law schools in India and abroad for few years. Once my friends in the academic community became aware that I was starting on my own, I was inundated with request for a more regular and formal role with some institutions. The underlying objective was to bridge the gap between academic knowledge and practical skills that exist in Indian law schools. Now, I am engaged with some premier law and management schools as guest faculty and am imparting practical skills pertaining to corporate laws, international contracting, business ethics and drafting skills.
Besides, I have also been approached by online education ventures to assist them in imparting online education.
This has opened floodgates for requests from websites imparting legal knowledge to contribute articles – now, I post 1 article on Linkedin and it may be republished by 5 websites! Such is the demand.
My contact base now consists of thousands of students from all over India, even abroad.
Please tell us about Corporate Law in India: A General Mindset. Do you think companies are now more pro-active than reactive or still a long way to go?
Both legs of your question are correct. Certainly, companies are more pro-active than they were a decade or two back. Corporates used to wait for a dispute to go to a law firm. Now, many corporates engage law firms even before a preliminary discussion with a potential business associate and seek inputs for MOU, drafting, negotiation, closing and so on. They realize that a stitch in time saves a hundred later.
However, the situation is still far from optimal. Indian corporates have a long way to be fully vigilant about safeguarding their interests while entering any commercial relationships. Some of them still see legal costs as avoidable as much as possible, yet ready to spend many times to repair the damage caused due to such attitude later! Pennywise, pound foolish, goes the saying.
Should Foreign Law firms be allowed to practice in India? What will you say to the corporates who may be are looking forward to this development?
My views are ambivalent. Entry of foreign law firms in India may help improvise the situation in terms of professionalization. Big Indian corporates are therefore likely to welcome this step and may also engage foreign firms in international matters or in high stake matters. However, an unrestricted entry may prove detrimental to the young lawyers from a non-creamy background who are already struggling to find employment.
Another aspect is the pricing. Indian clients are very cost sensitive – even Indian law firms face challenges in extracting a reasonable fee from them. Foreign firms may face competition in this regard within different foreign firms as well as from Indian firms. Therefore, I am not sure how foreign firms will sustain and survive in this competitive market.
What is the one mistake you find that young lawyers make more often than others?
Shortcuts. One has to understand that all the role models achieved their success with hard work and long years of hard work, practice, and persistence. Today, cut-and-paste culture seems to have overtaken research-and-work culture. Resultantly, the present generation is like instant noodles – in too much hurry. This reflects poorly on many aspects of their behavior and attitude. They should spend enough time under the sun to consider themselves to be authorities on their subject. Impatience is good as long as it results in your quest for knowledge. However, if you start cutting corners, it doesn’t do any good to anyone.
In terms of Legal Essentials for a New venture/ Startup, what major advice you would like to give that majorly hits them at a success leap?
In the startup phase, many promoters do not appreciate the need for being legally compliant or careful in your dealings with your partners. Their argument is that we are too small to engage a consultant or we cannot afford the cost. However, this is precisely what causes them heavy penalties and/or despair, as the case may be, at a later stage.
If the venture is successful, there are many parents behind a success and profit sharing becomes a bone of contention in the absence of a well-crafted understanding. If the venture fails, it is an orphan no one wants to take care of – this causes friction among the promoters. So, basically, you have to safeguard your interests and limit your obligations to take care of either eventuality.
Even if you are a sole proprietor of a venture, you must ensure utmost compliance at all stages.
One must appreciate the logic behind ‘Prevention is better than Cure’.
Besides other advantages, good housekeeping helps when you are about to get your dream “Funding” and the investor wants to carry a due diligence over your affairs.
Please share something about your family background, lifestyle and things that keep you going?
I come from a humble, non-legal background. My family has been the backbone for all my professional adventures and has always stood behind me for whatever steps I have taken. My parents are retired.
My wife is an electronics engineer turned teacher. She is passionate about disseminating education and even runs a blog to impart free electronics education without a revenue model!
My children are studying – not sure if any of them will take up law. However, they argue a lot with me and mostly win (sometimes with their mother’s support).
I try to lead a simple balanced life. No discussion about work at home and we try to have at least a meal together at night. We are very simple and grounded people. Therefore, any ups and downs (financial or otherwise) do not affect us too much and life goes on in this happy-peppy family.
The excitement of doing something new or different, meeting or speaking to some new client/student every day keeps me going.
What was your highest point in life and what was your Lowest?
There have been many high points. Securing a British Chevening Scholarship in 2000, being recognized among Top 100 Indian Lawyers for a couple of years now (with clients’ and professionals’ nominations), Corp Comm Legal being recognized among Rising Stars within a year of setting up, and so on.
Another funny high point came when a student in one of my 2 days drafting workshop commented – This is the first long workshop wherein I haven’t gone to sleep.
I try not to feel low, come what may. So, I may not be able to recount the lowest point.
What are your major strengths and weaknesses?
I’d say confidence and go-get-it attitude are my strengths.
Among weaknesses, there are many. Let’s count a few.
I could never be diplomatic – never hesitated in calling a spade a spade.
I could never be dishonest to the client – have refused briefs where I suspected something shady or illegal.
I could never be apologetic about fees – have demanded what I thought we deserve as good professionals.
I could never be static – have moved on if I didn’t enjoy working in a particular place, even if it meant losing tonnes of money.
Do you enjoy debating politics with your friends? Do you think people’s political views change over their lifetime?
Yes, we do discuss politics as well. I think this is the biggest pastime in India, we cannot be oblivious to it. If politicians’ views change so frequently (don’t they change parties?), I think people too are entitled to changing their views, isn’t it? Delivery has become very essential for political parties now more than ever before. If they don’t deliver, they cannot expect the electorate to be their bonded constituency. Change is the only constant these days, it seems.
@TUB we are focused to highlight the Boss in yourself. So what do you think is more important out of the two “being a boss” or “being a leader”?
I’d rather be a teammate. A teammate with more experience.
I have been a senior colleague to many lawyers these years and most of them are now partners in biggest Indian and foreign law firms. Most of them are in touch and still cherish our relationship with me and the other way round. This seems to be my biggest accomplishment.
Being a leader encompasses many dimensions – being a well-wisher, guiding light, a source of inspiration, a shoulder to cry on.
Boss, on the other hand, may be a position by virtue of just being in that position and not necessary entail leadership qualities.
You cannot command respect, you have to earn it.
Leadership, therefore, seems more familiar to me rather than being a Boss.
Finally, what’s next for “Bhumesh Verma”?
It seems my life has just begun and I have miles to go.
Punishment for good work is more work, isn’t it?
I thought life may become a bit easier for me after leaving big law firms. However, I have never been busier in my life.
Besides work, every day, I get requests for article writing, book writing, blogs, lectures, blogs, students requests for involving them in research work or career counseling and so on. I try to do as much as I can.
Anyways, Zindagi lambi nahi, badi honi chahiye. If we are puppets in God’s hands, we better put up a great show till we are here.
Link : http://www.tub.asia/bhumesh-partner-corpcomlegal/