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Legal Consulting: An Insider’s View

By Sahil Verma, Chief Legal Counsel, Innovation 360

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Sahil Verma, Chief Legal Counsel, Innovation 360

Legal consulting is vital for individuals and corporate persons alike owing to central, state and municipal laws (as well as rules and regulations) for almost each and every activity which set forth the obligations as well as confer rights. Non-compliance of a law can adversely affect an individual or a business entity. In the case of denial of right or a threatened encroachment of a right, the affected party may take legal recourse for enforcement.

Legal consulting is also of importance for strategic planning such as inheritance, trust formation, structuring transactions, drafting and negotiating documentation (agreements, deeds, policies, speeches etc), attainment of optimal tax efficiency and making representations before government authorities. Consultants assist in mitigation of risks through conduction of detailed due diligence and provision of recommendations in light thereof.

In relation to existing and potential disputes (be they law suits or arbitration proceedings or mediation proceedings), legal consultants aid by preventing, settling and contesting them.

Additionally, the practice of obtaining a legal opinion has become an integral part of every corporate transaction. This ensures that the transaction is legally compliant.

Evolution of Legal Consulting in India

India is a country known for diversity and legal system is not an exception to it. It is worthwhile to mention that both Hindu law and Shariah law co-existed, sometimes in harmony and sometimes in conflict until the colonisation of India that harmonised Indian legal system. Legal consulting was made a regulated profession in the British era thereby requiring a person to undertake legal studies prior to qualifying as a legal consultant.

Legal consulting has since then evolved substantially in India. At present, legal consulting is offered by individual practitioners and law firms (partnerships as well as limited liability partnerships). India is also a first choice outsource destination for various international law firms and corporate which outsource their legal work to Indian organisations (popularly known as LPOs).   

Legal Consulting for Organisations

A legal consultant’s objective towards a business  is enabling and safeguarding the business interests of an organization by providing practical and cost-effective services; and, by providing commercial-legal framework to its business plans, thereby contributing to the growth of organization. The main objective of legal consulting whilst providing services to an organization is:

“Never tell an organisation that it can not utilise a particular methodology to achieve the business objective without first being ready to tell him what methodology it CAN use to achieve such business objective”

In a nutshell, the following legal services are provided to an organization:

  1. Compliance & Regulatory – Advising on Compliance with Laws, Regulations and Agreements.
  2. Corporate Governance- Framing and Implementing T&Cs and Policies; Ensuring Corporate Governance (in functioning of the management and the Board).
  3. Strategic Advisory- Preparing Transaction Structures; Providing Legal Advice on Business Planning, Continuance and Expansion; Conducting Due Diligence; Identifying and Mitigating Risks.
  4. Contract Management- Drafting, Reviewing and Negotiating Agreements; Preparing Standard Templates.
  5. Dispute Resolution- Advising on Ongoing, Potential and Threatened Legal Proceedings; Settling Disputes; Representing the Organisation.

Challenges

 Legal Consulting sector in India is facing the following major challenges:

  1. Continuous Professional Development- Whilst the profession is regulated, lack of continuous learning and professional development obligations for the legal consultants results in non-maintenance of learning curve and affects the quality of services.
  2. Lax Regulations- The professional regulations are extremely relaxed and lawyers rarely get suspended for misconduct, negligence or breach of professional ethics.
  3. Attitude- Usually, the legal consultants are focused on ‘reactive and defensive approach’ as opposed to ‘proactive and pragmatic approach’. On a related note, their methodology is ‘legal centric’ as opposed to ‘business and legal centric’ results in dispute solving instead of dispute prevention. 
  4. Reluctance in Technology Usage- Legal consultants are not taking recourse to technology tools for meetings (such as Cisco Webex and Skype; the latter is used sparingly though), e-discovery and contract management.
  5. Monopolisation- The market is highly monopolised by selected group of individuals and firms which advertently inhibits growth of emerging individuals and firms and which exercise substantial influence over government authorities and judiciary.

Future

In spite of the challenges which legal consulting is facing, the future of industry is bright considering the growing importance of law in business and society. However, the industry leaders as well as practitioners must embrace a pragmatic and proactive approach; act as ‘truly professional lawyers with smart business hats’; and focus, on efficiency, quality, practicability and cost-effectiveness.

In future, legal consulting would not just be business enabler; it would be a manufacturer of success as well as an innovation factory; thus, offering innovative legal and business services and products. 

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