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KS Legal and Associates - Mumbai Based Firm Offering Legal Solutions for Startups and Corporates

'Mentoring a team is very important for retaining the best people. I need to give my team of associates the right diet of work; both in terms of quantity and quality.'

Young talent are striving to bring about a change in the society and a lot of entrepreneurs are choosing to become a house lawyer. In a chit-chat session with Sonam Chandwani, Founder, KS Legalexplores her entrepreneurship journey.

KS LEGAL & ASSOCIATES, as a start-up offers a platform for lawyers to grow with an exciting new practice, provides services comprising of corporate law and dispute resolution services that is effective and tailored to fit for purpose for their clients.

Why did you decide to go to law school? What motivated you?

I remember that since childhood I wanted to become a lawyer. I was mesmerized by the authority and power that came along with the position. Whatever it is you might want to do at a personal or macro level, being a lawyer gives you an opportunity to change people’s lives and society as a whole in a whole host of ways. But for me, certainly the career path was always quite clear. I do not belong to family of lawyers but I believe background should not play a role, just the desire and passion to be a lawyer.

What was your initial experience in law practice like?

My initial experience was filled with utter fear and confusion. I had been a student for over 20 years so being out in the real world, in a “big girl” job, was scary. There is a huge learning curve when you first start practicing law, and the amount of responsibility that falls in your lap is a bit overwhelming. When I first graduated, I was lucky enough to find a well paying job with a challenging role in a conglomerate so I gained a lot of hands-on experience from the get-go. However, even though I was grateful I had a job; I was unhappy and unfulfilled for many months until I decided to get into practice. The majority of my legal work focuses on corporate law and dispute resolution.

Why did you chose to be an in house lawyer as every student during law school dream of landing a job at top law firms?

I got an opportunity of working with a listed company and the legal head of that company had resigned so it was really challenging for me to manage entire legal department of a conglomerate company. I have always been a self learner and I am good at managing things and people. It was a great experience; I believe that an in house lawyer can be a good business partner and a key player in making business decisions. My experience covers not just finance, but also change management, programme management and operations across all facets of running a business.  All my career moves have helped me improve, and make the best possible use of my skills and experience to move my career forward.

What are the challenges you have faced in a Practice?

I now have much greater responsibility for developing client relationships. The primary focus of my role has certainly shifted. I now do slightly less hands-on, technical legal work. For instance, I do less drafting and legal research. These responsibilities are delegated to associates and trainees, which allows them to develop their core skills.

Business development is now a major focus of my role. I’m responsible for maintaining existing client relationships and creating new ones. Furthermore, I now approach my work from a commercial, as well as legal, perspective; acting as a strategic adviser to the boards of the clients that we are working with.

The real challenge is to remain on top of everything. Delegation is essential, but you have to maintain a grasp of all the issues relevant to each transaction. Essentially, my role involves delegation without any sense of abdication. I have a constant dialogue with the associates and trainees in my team.

Mentoring a team is very important for retaining the best people. I need to give my team of associates the right diet of work; both in terms of quantity and quality. The work they do has to be stimulating, demanding and important to them, to retain them.

What are the attributes of a good practising lawyer?

First, you need to develop strong technical skills and have a real interest in the law. You really do need to be a good technical lawyer. This is your base. Without this, you will not be run your shop.

Secondly, you need good people skills. Clients tend to choose people that they enjoy working with. India is a very competitive legal market and, in order to win clients off other law firms, you need to be able to impress and gain a client's respect.

Thirdly, you need to have the right work ethic. When you’re a partner you have a range of other responsibilities on top of your legal work, such as marketing, recruitment and mentoring. You need to have the right mentality as well as an ability to juggle a variety of different responsibilities. That’s what’s exciting though! It allows you to shape a demanding, but rewarding, career.

What kind of a work have you done and what have been your achievements so far?

We have worked with all kinds of Companies from start ups to conglomerates; we have recently assisted a fortune 500 company to acquire a majority stake in the company based in Mumbai. I have seen my clients struggling to recover their monies from their customers so I have decided to resolve this problem of my clients by way of mediation. I personally enjoy the role of a mediator and resolve disputes of the clients I have successfully mediated and recovered approx 16 crores by mediating between the parties. I am that lawyer who doesn’t encourage litigation and rather explain clients that litigation is extremely expensive both emotionally and monetarily. It is also a slow process so its in the best interest of the parties to settle it amicably and out of court.

What are your three best pieces of career advice for law students and/or new lawyers?

1. Build yourself up as an authority figure in something! It can be your practice area, a niche practice area, a hobby, a skill, etc. If you become the go-to person for a specific subject matter, you will begin to build your personal brand and ultimately, attract clients, referrals, and business. You can do this through blogging, making videos, using social media, and other platforms.

2.  Expose yourself to as much experience as you can. Extern while in law school, volunteer at local legal aid clinics as a new lawyer, participate in pro bono services, do whatever you can to get experience if you’re not getting it at your firm or if you’re a solo practitioner and have some extra time.

3.  Focus on building relationships with professors, older attorneys, colleagues, and non-legal professionals because those relationships will serve you immensely when you’re practicing and need a mentor to turn to for help. Relationships take time to build so doesn’t expect to receive help from anyone before you offer to help them first.  Give first always.

What sets KS Legal apart?

We never compromise on quality. Customer satisfaction is always crucial for us. When I mention clients, I mean internal and external. This is a people business, and you want the brightest and the best. The fact that the team is growing means that expectation will be higher, and there is no excuse not to deliver.

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