by Sonal Makhija | January 21, 2012
originally published http://www.mylaw.net/Article/A_sense_of_being_service_providers/
Pingal Khan, the youngest partner at PXV Law Partners (“PXV”) spoke with myLaw.net in an interview via email. The first and second parts of the interview have been published here and here. The interview concludes below, where he discusses the market conditions and regulatory environment for Indian lawyers, and his personal growth as a lawyer.
Sonal Makhija for myLaw.net (ML): We have witnessed a shift from the practice of law to the business of law in recent years. Where do you see the profession in the next few years?
Pingal Khan (PK): I would not call it ‘business of law’. Rather, there is a sense of being ‘service providers’ to the clients. It is still the practice of law, with a requirement and a conscious effort to provide better service to the client.
The profession of law is amongst the oldest in the world and has continued to be so, with limited changes. While I do not expect a major change in the basics, I do expect more competition, development of the overall quality, and professionalism over the next few years.
ML: Do you think law has become more commoditised over the years? If yes, what do you think has led to this change in the practice of law?
PK: Like I said, more than law becoming commoditised, I would consider lawyers have recognised that they are part of the service industry and they provide a valuable service.
ML: In the absence of advertising, what factors determine a client’s choice of a law firm for transactional work?
PK: A client chooses a law firm mostly on the basis of a good reputation in the market and amongst peers. More often than not, the best referrals come from the existing clients of the firm.
ML: Do the regulatory restrictions on advertising hamper the free practice of law? How important is branding and marketing of law firms in today’s legal environment?
PK: We do not feel much necessity for advertising in our field in India. Visibility is definitely important, but appreciation that comes from the market for the work done and the references that go about through word-of-mouth are more important.
Branding of a law firm, is however, quite important in today’s age and market scenario. That is also how you put across your values and culture as an organisation. But one should not go overboard with things like branding and marketing. After all, what matters at the end of the day is the quality of work and that focus should never be lost.
ML: Your opinion on the reform in the regulatory environment for the legal profession and the opening up of the Indian legal industry.
PK: The industry bodies have already taken a stand on this and I do not want to comment further. However, these are interesting times and we are keeping a close watch on the situation.
ML: You started the firm straight out of college and were possibly the youngest partner in the firm. What led you to make that decision?
PK: I have always wanted to start an organisation of my own. At the time of taking the decision, I was twenty-three. So I will not rule out the role played by youthful exuberance and enthusiasm in that decision. The desire to build an institution and to do so with some of my closest friends and seniors was the most influential factor behind my decision.
ML: For most law school graduates, becoming a partner is often the definition of success and their sole aspiration. Given you became a partner right after law school, what motivates you to keep going on and how do you define success?
PK: The ‘Partner’ tag is, indeed, often an aspirational goal. However, the profession has a very clear understanding of what it means. It means the responsibility of the highest degree when it comes to both clients and to your other members inside the law firm. Being as young as I was and still am, I have always felt the challenge of living up to the expectations of that designation was motivating enough. I have been tremendously lucky to be helped by my other partners and seniors in the profession outside the firm to understand and evolve in my role while continuously working towards the goal of becoming a better lawyer. Law is after all a practice, and in any practice, getting better at what you do and building a reputation of trust is an everlasting and ever evolving process.
While yes, getting the tag is a goal for many in law school, I am sure all those who hold such designations today and are obviously far more experienced than me, will also agree that the set of challenges are completely new and almost forever changing.
For me, success has never been a set of calibrations. I started a firm and have enjoyed every day of that journey. I am sure as long as PXV allows people to take risks in future by just being an example of ‘risk works’ and reassures them that chasing your dreams may not be such an impractical idea, I would consider our effort a success. As a lawyer, success is [the] trust and belief of the client and [the] ability to best represent his interests within our system.
Finally, I think for any professional or entrepreneur, it is all about the journey and being able to look forward to every day as a set of new opportunities.
ML: What growth path should a law graduate capitalise on in today’s market?
PK: There is no straight answer to that and it would be different for each person. We see that everyone wants to be a ‘corporate lawyer’ nowadays sometimes without even having a clear idea of what it entails. We suggest not to get carried away by any fad but to play according to their strengths and try to be good lawyers. Whilst it may sound clichéd, there is really no substitute to hard work.
Build a real reputation as a lawyer and also build an organisation that would last. That is the biggest motivation.