“The most rewarding aspect of having my own practice is that I get to pick my clients without having any pressures of meeting revenue targets, and I am able to create flexibility around work timings because I answer to only my clients”- Harini Subramani, Founder at HS Law & Associates

This Interview has been published by Pragya Chandni and The SuperLawyer Team

Can you share with us your journey from being a financial journalist to becoming a corporate lawyer, and what inspired this transition?

During my time as a reporter for Mint and the Wall Street Journal, I had to specifically track investment banks and write on mergers and acquisitions. As a primer, one of my sources suggested I read ‘Barbarians at the Gate’; that along with my conversations with bankers and private equity professionals got me hooked into the world of M&As. I was eager to explore the other side. 

I had initially tried my hand at investment banking but the mundane work of creating spreadsheets and data analysis as an everyday role didn’t much enthuse me. Within a week though, I joined a boutique law firm and pursuing a business law programme at NLSIU parallely seemed natural. The law firm had a highly motivated team and enabled a varied exposure in corporate law – I learnt trademark application processes, commercial contracts drafting including transaction documents and base arbitration. I continued to write for Your Story occasionally. I had the best of both worlds and was learning something new everyday. I decided to stick on and take each day as it came.

Given your diverse background in journalism, economics, and law, how do you believe it has shaped your approach to practicing law, particularly in M&A and commercial law?

So my late entry in the legal world has worked to my advantage given my journalism background. While my initial degree was in economics, a lot of my learning of the law, especially around the securities market and SEBI, was from my days as a financial journalist. Aside from reviewing the regulatory sites (like MCA, SEBI and RBI) for latest circulars / amendments on a daily basis, I would routinely follow corporate announcements on the BSE and NSE. Any seasoned reporter would tell you that it’s a goldmine for story leads. When I needed guidance to understand concepts, (luckily) as a journalist I could ask industry seniors to share their knowledge. I was fortunate to be ably guided by some bankers in the equity and debt markets; I’d go armed with a lot of questions for breakfast meetings. All of this helped lay the foundation to understand not just the law but also complexities / challenges of the M&A world. Now, as I sift through the laws, my ground work in economics helps review it from a policy perspective. 

Could you tell us about a particularly challenging case or project you’ve worked on in your legal career, and how you navigated through it?

Every project has its own set of challenges. While I wouldn’t want to name a particular case, I’d like to share that since I handle corporate and a few litigation matters, I find a dichotomy with respect to timelines and outcomes. Because litigation has its own procedures, and owing to its sometimes time-consuming nature there’s more thrill in setting expectations for faster closures in M&A or commercial negotiations. I have to consciously set my mind to a different frame for litigation. 

You’ve been involved in drafting various agreements and advising on regulatory matters. What are some key considerations you always keep in mind when advising clients, especially in the realm of mergers and acquisitions?

Create an internal priority checklist of terms and flag them off – i.e., understand from the client the aspects that they are absolutely unwilling to let go off vs less important points. Discuss the business angle in the transaction as it goes in tandem. If representing an acquirer, then go the extra mile for a thorough diligence on the target to ensure that at least the key industry specific permissions are in place, and forensics on the promoter are clean.

Your experience spans from working with Vichar Partners to establishing your own practice. What motivated you to start your own firm, and what have been some of the most rewarding aspects of being an entrepreneur in the legal field?

After my stint at JSA – given my unconventional background, it was initially challenging for 2 law firms to accurately gauge my skill set because I could be a rainmaker and yet not as seasoned as a partner. It was easier to get clients. And some industry seniors, entrepreneurs themselves, motivated me to begin on my own. My work with one of the senior partners at Vichar (Partners) had already exposed me to the ‘business management’ side and the transparent culture in my team at JSA also helped place many things in perspective. Being a first generation entrepreneur, I had nothing to lose by charting my journey on my own. The objective has always been one of learning. The most rewarding aspect of having my own practice is that I get to pick my clients without having any pressures of meeting revenue targets, and I am able to create flexibility around work timings because I answer to only my clients.  

As someone who has contributed to agrarian policy and worked on projects funded by organizations like the UN World Food Programme, how do you see the intersection of law and policy-making, particularly in areas like food security?

For countries that have faced depredations of famine and hunger under colonial rule, food-security is a very sensitive and key matter of policy. Emerging nations have to safeguard and sustain their agrarian ecosystems against OECD nations’ policies at an international level. At the same time they also have to increase yield, shield themselves against crop losses as well as shift populations away from agriculture and into industry. Policy-making is a vital exercise to attain this goal while the law attempts to provide safeguards for all stakeholders during this process.

With your interests in tennis, dance, and cultures, how do you find these aspects complementing your legal career, if at all?

Sports and the fine arts play a vital role in expanding one’s horizons and for agility. In my view, having a wide exposure to different aspects of the society exposes me to varied thought processes and perspectives thereby enabling me to become a better lawyer. They are also an easy way to switch off and relax.

Considering your journey and expertise, what advice would you give to law graduates aspiring to specialize in corporate law, especially in the areas of M&A and commercial law?

Go full throttle, always try to understand the issue at hand, do your own research (the law changes and nobody knows everything), never work on an empty stomach, and continue pursuing your hobbies. 

Get in touch with Harini Subramani-

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