I am the Managing Partner of Solomon & Co. Advocates & Solicitors, one of India’s oldest and most reputed law firms. I qualified in 1995 and was ranked first in the all India Solicitor’s examination in 1996. I was a partner at two major Indian law firms before joining the family firm in 2007.
In active practice for over 23 years, I specialize in corporate & commercial work, including mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures, exchange control regulations, banking and finance, investment funds, private equity and securities laws.
Law came naturally to me, and I don’t believe I ever made a conscious decision to choose law as a career. I come from a family of lawyers spanning 4 generations. I enjoyed political science and was fascinated with the writings of Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli and other great thinkers. Whilst in law college, I enjoyed the competitiveness of moot courts and debating. I was also fascinated with emerging areas of law, which, back in the 1990s included environmental laws and private international laws.
As a corporate lawyer, I love a good legal negotiation. Negotiation is an art and skill for transactional lawyers, possibly equivalent to the art of cross-examination for a litigator. It involves deep knowledge and good preparation, legal strategy, thinking on your feet, skill with words, written and verbal, and the ability to reconcile differences in views. In most cases, a transaction can be successfully completed only if the commercial objectives of both sides are achieved. To successfully complete a transaction, a good lawyer negotiates, and does not argue, since an argument creates a divide between contracting parties. Internationally, people do business with partners who they like and trust. A good negotiator needs to pursue his or her client’s objectives and protect his client, but simultaneously retain and foster good relations and trust between the contracting parties. Negotiation is the high-water mark for a corporate lawyer.
A big challenge that I and many other lawyers face is long hours of work. The intense hours of work and 7-day week routines I did in my early career impacted my health. While hard-work is important and long hours are unavoidable for a lawyer, I believe that when possible a lawyer should take time to refresh and recuperate. Being a lawyer is a long-distance race, and you need to plan for a career hopefully over 50 years. In addition, many of the skills you gain by interacting with family and friends outside office, travelling, gaining knowledge of non-legal areas, all help you to be a better lawyer.
I now work on a more structured schedule. At our firm all lawyers work a 6-day week, and we have introduced 2 Saturdays off in a month. Scheduled lunch-breaks are important. After an assignment which requires endless work-hours, we provide compensatory offs. Whilst working from home is usually not encouraged for any of our lawyers, annual leaves are. Flexible working hours have also been implemented. All these steps have been taken to provide lawyers the ability to enjoy and grow with their work, and not feel burdened and constrained by it.
Law is a vast subject and involves multiple skills – intellect, speaking, arguing, writing, researching, communicating, interacting with a variety of people, etc. I feel that the subject is so diverse there is scope for everyone to utilize their strengths to their advantage as a lawyer. If you enjoy writing, you will do well with contract drafting. If you like numbers, you will do well as a finance lawyer. If you enjoy the excitement of the stock exchanges, you will do well as a securities lawyer. And if you enjoy a good argument, you will do well as a litigator.
The common skills to be a successful as a lawyer are those of hard work, trust and integrity. Law and hard-work go hand-in-hand since, irrespective of how smart you are, the quantum of time you devote to a file or case will determine how good or bad your performance is with respect to that file or case. Trust and integrity are paramount since a good lawyer needs to be trusted not only by his clients but also by his opponents. Only if your opponent trusts you will he give credibility to what you are saying in a contract negotiation. Only if the judge and your opponent trust you will they give weightage to your arguments in a legal proceeding.
Most lawyers will regularly face the need to rise beyond their role and push themselves to the limit to achieve success on a transaction or proceedings for their clients. Several such instances come to mind, from working for 72 hours non-stop to complete a transaction, to camping-out at remote police stations to free a client from jail, and from being on a conference call when my wife was delivering our son, to choosing to represent clients on controversial and debatable issues.
The biggest problem with today’s legal education is that teachers are not paid adequately. For good law students, you first need good teachers. If teachers are paid a pittance, why will knowledgeable lawyers give up on lucrative legal careers to take up teaching. Overseas, due to higher salaries, many young lawyers also teach at law colleges to supplement their income and gain repute and knowledge. Unfortunately, in our country, teachers are not paid well and there are just a handful of lawyers who have the determination to forego otherwise successful careers and wealth to pursue the important and deserving role of a law professor.
To my mind, mastery in a certain subject is what sets apart an average professional from an excellent one. To master a subject, a professional needs to possess a vast amount of knowledge and experience in an area of law, to the extent he or she is an obvious-choice for any client needing assistance in that area of law.
I believe lawyer-poaching is an ailment in our profession that affects many firms. We spend several years training the next generation of lawyers, for them to simply leave for a marginally higher salary. While young lawyers are certainly entitled to scout for better prospects, I feel that targeted solicitation of lawyers from identified competing firms is a bad practice in the legal industry and should be stopped. This practice will end only if lawyers themselves take a conscious decision that they will not solicit lawyers from their competitors
As a lawyer, you need to be constantly flexible with your point of view to take into account new information. There are several factors that affect the outcome of a transaction or proceeding – your client’s objectives, the opponent’s response, the judge’s views, the state of the economy, etc. You need to constantly take all of this into consideration to re-evaluate your plan and strategy on a transaction or proceeding.
A few years ago, I had an interesting negotiation against a lawyer who refused to agree with anything I said. In the end we were left with only a single alternative which would achieve my client’s objective. We prepared a white-paper detailing two-alternatives, one of which we did not like. When the negotiations commenced, I was asked to describe the alternatives we suggested, and on the white-board I outlined the alternative we did not like, and sure enough the opponent disagreed with it. I did not talk about the preferred alternative at all, until the opponent asked me “what about the other alternative?” I said I did not propose the 2nd alternative since I was not inclined to it, but since the opponent requested, I outline the 2nd alternative on the white-board. Since I had indicated I did not recommend this alternative, the opponent considered this 2nd alternative favourably and immediately agreed to it, which we immediately documented and implemented.
As a lawyer, seniority is important. Very often you will act on the instructions of your seniors, even if you have a different point of view. So long as you are compliant with law and ethics, there is nothing wrong with this.
It takes years of hard work and perseverance to become a great lawyer. Diligence, commitment to your practice and the willingness to take up challenges along the way will certainly help young lawyers develop great careers. Asking questions, in-depth reading of commentaries and engaging in discussions with your colleagues on points law always add value.
Certainly. Lawyers work in teams and it is often difficult to find lawyers in various cities and parts of India. We would certainly recommend Lawyered to find lawyers in various locations and cities based on our and our client’s requirements.
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