Ritwik Sahay qualified in law from Delhi University in 2008, prior to which he had attained a bachelor’s degree in Commerce. He has worked as an Advocate at firms like Trilegal and Dua Associates, with his specialization being Corporate Law. He currently heads the Corporate and Commercial team at Jus Remedium.
In this interview, he talks to us about:
- The selection of law as a career choice and the role Commerce had to play
- Starting up Jus Remedium
- The art of negotiations and liaisons
- Identification of key areas of responsibilities and taking on assignments in various fields of specialization
How would you like to introduce yourself to our readers?
Hi, I am Ritwik Sahay, the Corporate Partner at Jus Remedium Law Offices. I am a law graduate from Delhi University and have completed C.S. (Executive). My core areas of practice include M&A, FDI, general corporate & commercial advisory, labour & employment, and corporate and regulatory compliances. I love reading and that helps me to improvise myself, on a personal as well as a professional front, on a regular basis. My success mantra is hard-work, honesty and collective growth.
Was Law your first choice as a career? What prompted you to take up this line of work?
Well, Law was not my first choice as a career. I was aspiring for business administration but could not get through any ‘A’ grade business school. Basically, I started Law to compliment my CS syllabus, but gradually I fell in love with Law and pursued it as my main course. Most lawyers would agree when I say that Law is a challenging career that literally forces you to excel everyday if you want to be in the practice for a long period. I became fascinated towards Law practice after realising that this profession will not only provide me a platform to gain immense knowledge but will also give me opportunities to make a difference in the functioning of corporate sector.
Did your Bachelors in Commerce in any way prompt you to choose Corporate Law, or further your interest in it?
Yes, of course. I strongly believe that my commerce background not only prompted me to take up Corporate Law as a practice but also proved to be of great help in understanding the intricacies of corporate structure and requirement. Some of the commerce subjects like economics, accounts and business laws gave me a bigger horizon to understand Corporate Law issues and measures to tackle them. I also believe that in the present era, legal and business requirements go hand in hand, and you cannot really segregate them especially if you are in Corporate Law practice. Having a commerce degree (and pursuing CS) literally mended my way toward adopting Corporate Law practice. Once you have been in this practice for 7-8 years, you tend to realise that having a good understanding of financial records of a company gives a cutting edge over others, and having a commerce background certainly helps you in decoding these financials records.
What was your experience like during your stay in Delhi University? What were some of your biggest takeaways?
Oh, it was a life-time experience staying in DU. I had come to DU from a small town in Bihar/Jharkhand and it was a quite a cultural shock to me initially when I was introduced to DU (during my graduation days). Gradually, DU started taking good care of me and all I had to do was to adapt to the circumstances. Law graduation from DU was, of course, a prestigious thing and I thoroughly enjoyed my days at Law Faculty. I still believe that the Law Faculty trains you to be hard-working, dedicated and innovative. The variety of students you find in Law Faculty will completely change your outlook towards life and your career. Moot courts were really helpful in understanding the importance of the research part of Law practice. Similarly, debate competition literally improved my negotiating skills. It is quite important that you keep participating in these activities during your college days. I had bagged a couple of awards in debate and moot-court competitions in Law Faculty.
You refer to your ability to act as a liaison and your negotiation skills as some of your key skills. How do you think these have played a relevant role in your career?
Well, I think liaising and negotiating skills are inseparable part of Corporate Law practice, and these are as important as your knowledge of laws. I am an ardent believer in the fact that if you cannot express or communicate your knowledge, your knowledge will not be useful. As Corporate Law practice largely involves finalising the terms of several agreements, it is not important only to draft these agreements but also to negotiate the terms with the other parties and to convince them to agree to your terms. If you do not have a strong negotiating skill (coupled with knowledge to back it up, of course), it would be difficult for you to get through any transaction. I also believe that adaptability is one of the significant factors that you must possess to enhance your negotiating skills. Likewise, liaising with different Government bodies to conclude a transaction is something which you cannot afford to ignore. It is necessary to understand that different Government bodies function in different styles and you have to adopt different measures to liaise with them.
A lot of your work involved foreign investment. Do you think the current laws do a satisfactory job at safeguarding and promoting foreign investment?
Foreign Investment is one of the most important aspects of Corporate Law practice. Majority of the Corporate Law Firms in India, these days, base their practice on foreign investments. As a firm, we are of the view that the current legal regime has been quite successful in attracting foreign investment. There are, of course, certain areas like labour and industrial laws, which – in my view – are archaic and can be improvised to make them simpler and practical, but a large number of current legislations are providing good opportunities to foreign investors to explore Indian market. Further, introduction of the new set of companies laws and bankruptcy & insolvency laws are a good sign which have already attracted the eye balls of foreign investors. Also, the liberalisation in the conditions for foreign investments (through amendments in the foreign exchange laws), on a regular basis, not only signify the Government’s intention to make India a better place to invest in, but also make the investment procedure simpler and smoother. At present, one of the biggest challenges is to eliminate the uncertainty regarding the tax laws (in terms of Goods and Service Tax laws and Direct Tax Code) which, I think, are causing the foreign investors being overcautious.
Did your internships and/or prior work experience in any way aid you in the furtherance of these?
Actually, being a commerce graduate and pursuing CS, I always had interest in corporate laws, and the kind of internships I undertook pushed me to take up Corporate Law practice.
You have worked with issues regarding benefits available to employees under various labour welfare organisations etc. What are your thoughts regarding the Labour Laws present in India today?
Most of the labour laws in India are welfare legislations and were enacted to protect the interests of labourers to a large extent. The Indian Judiciary, too, have time and again been proven to be labour friendly because of the fact that labourers are considered to be having week bargaining power vis-a-vis their engagements with corporate entities. However, with the evolution of trade unions in India, there has been an immense shift in the bargaining power of the labour force which at times gets exercised in unwanted manners. If you see, a majority of the labour laws in India have failed to adapt the new trend and that causes a regular tussle between the corporate entities and them. Further, these labour laws are so scattered that it is really difficult for a corporate entity to be fully complied. Segregation between Central legislations and State legislations vis-a-vis the labour laws has further added to the complexity of these laws. We, as a firm, strongly believe that now is the time when the Labour Laws need overhauling to make them simpler and practical so at to cater the needs of the labours but at the same time making the compliances easier and smoother for corporate entities.
What made you decide to start your independent practise Jus Remedium? What are some key differences you have faced in terms of dealing with clients while working under a firm, and being an independent practitioner?
I think it is broadly a matter of choice whether you wish to continue working with a law firm or want to go independent – both has its pros and cons. For me, I think it was an urge to develop my own philosophy of working which sort of compelled me to start Jus Remedium. Of course, it was a tough decision to leave a settled career in Trilegal and start an independent practice, but it was a bit of self-belief and the support of family and clients-cum-friends that allowed me to go for it.
I did not find much difference in dealing with clients because of the fact that I have been dealing with similar clients for a substantial period of time while I was in a law firm. One prominent difference would be the added responsibility that you not only have to execute the work but also to develop a relationship with the clients directly to earn works. Initially, it was little difficult to realise that we are a start-up firm and we have to adjust to the clients’ requirement in terms fees and deadlines. But, we adapted quickly and the clients are quite happy with the quality and turn-around-time we offer to them.
In the short while since you have founded Jus Remedium, you have built a significant network of big corporate clients. What are the key factors to building such a clientele and maintaining their trust?
These days, competition amongst law firms is acute, and hence it becomes important that your clients are satisfied with the quality of your work. It is not important only to win new clients but also to maintain a healthy relationship with these clients, and this is possible only if they feel safe in your hands. There are several factors which should be focussed on while you are developing your clientele, including your expertise and acumen to understand clients’ specific requirements. Additionally, you have to make your clients feel important irrespective of its size and the industry it belongs to. As a start-up firm, our philosophy is to provide quality work to our clients within a flexible turn-around-time, at a highly competitive price.
Please share with us your experience with identifying and shouldering Key-Responsibility Areas with regards to assignments in a myriad of fields. How did you go about such a mammoth task?
Basically, I enjoy identifying and shouldering responsibilities- be it towards clients or other lawyers. It has been quite a journey for me from being an associate to being a partner, and it has really helped me to understand the ground level issues to top level issues. As regards the legal assignments, I strongly believe that you would be able to give your 100% only if you get a sense of attachment with the assignments. It is easy to convince others on any issue but you should always try to convince yourself first before discussing it with others. Once you are convinced with your view, you would have a solid logic to back it up.
What message would you like to share with our readers?
Always stick to the fundamentals. Never opt for any shortcuts. Law is such a profession where you have to grow on a daily basis and be updated with the changes around. Since these days, laws are so dynamic: it becomes all the more important to be aware about all the amendments in the legislations you are practicing. My candid suggestion to the readers would be to focus on developing analytical and reasoning skills besides adopting an attitude of getting into the depth of every matter.