The Marvellous Framework For Global Expansion by CA. Adv. Harsh Patel, International Corporate & Tax Lawyer
The noble profession of law is on the brink of revolution
The legacy-oriented Kafkaesque system has been intercepted with new technologies and the globalisation of businesses. And to shed light on the challenges and horizons of this new-age profession, Dubai held one of the biggest in-person law events in December this year.
The Law 2.0 Conference held from 16 to18 December attracted luminaries of law from various countries, offering professionals the opportunity to learn from the best and expand their law expertise.
One of these luminaries was CA Adv Harsh Patel, founder and CEO at Water and Shark. Patel is an advocate and qualified chartered accountant with over a decade of experience in corporate law, tax and global business consultancy in the India, USA, Singapore, UAE and several other countries . He was one among five panelists to take a deep dive into the how to scale law firm to win international client work.
While on stage, he chose to focus his conversations on two things - scaling activities among law firms and the booming popularity of LPO.
Scaling to acquire international clients
Whether you're an individual practitioner or a small firm, acquiring international clients isn't as daunting as it sounds. Patel believes that anyone can scale his law practice with a strong and fixated mindset. "Don't let yourself be easily intimidated by colossal missions or bogged down by those who disparage you," he says.
During the conference, Patel laid down the framework for novice firms and budding lawyers to expand globally.
Work on your firm and not in your firm. There's a fine line between the two prepositions. 'Working in your firm' means you're dedicating the required number of hours to earn an income. It's no different from working a nine-to-five job. You're basically treating your own firm like a third-party company. However, working on your firm means you’re acting as the CEO, the brand ambassador, and the godfather of the company. You're building a system, laying down a foundation, creating a team and targeting your dream clients.
Patel believes that even though lawyers are technically sound, when it comes to business management they are sometimes naive. They equate commercial success with an increasing hourly rate.
"And sure, ROI is important. But if you're going to work based on number of hours, then you'll be stuck in the rut of monthly income-chasers. If you really want to become a big name in the law industry, you need to break-free from the $X per hour mindset and start hustling 24/7," he said.
Network, collaborate and capitalise. Just like any starry-eyed youth, Patel too was a travel bug in his younger days. He loved taking quarterly trips to different cities and countries. But these weren't just your typical backpacking escapades. Patel's travel had a covert business motive. He used these trips to study the rules, regulations, and business environments of different countries. He networked rigorously, entered small and big law circles and collaborated with local law firms. And then capitalised on all the knowledge and networking to build eight global offices in merely 10 years.
"When I plan to expand into a new country, I ask myself, how can I contribute to the business community of the country? What solutions am I bringing to them?" said Harsh pegging on the importance of a solution-oriented practice.
Compete globally, not locally. Comparing yourself to your peers in inevitable. Imperative even, as some would say. But the kind of comparison you make says a lot about how you grow. Patel believes that lawyers, even from the smallest towns of Asian countries, should compare themselves with their global peers.
"Don't just strive to be the best in your tiny geographical space. Benchmark yourself against global laureates so that even when you fail, you'll fail above average."
Legal Processing Outsourcing (LPO) as an asset for Asian firms
LPO has received staggering acclaim in the last few years, courtesy of the pandemic and culture of remote work.
It's not like LPO wasn't there in earlier times. Among the big four firms, outsourcing to Asian countries due to the right talent and low cost of infrastructure was common. However, most other firms in the US, UK, and Western European countries were skeptical about it due to privacy or data breaches and the quality of work in other parts of the world.
But as the pandemic pushed the economy into an abyss, and caused mass lay-offs in the West, LPO started gaining motion.
Firms could no longer sustain high-paying, high-profile in-house lawyers. So they started looking for alternatives outside their box. As a result, lawyers from India, Bangladesh, and other Asian countries got the opportunity to provide their services abroad remotely and prove their capabilities.
"The truth is that there are a lot of law services such as advisory, LPO, corporate and commercial drafting, etc that can be provided remotely and do not need a specific country’s license (Of course this is not blanket law, different countries may have different regulations). But in the past, western opinions were skewed in favour of western lawyers only and so credible minds from Asian countries had restricted avenues to make it big on a global scale."
The pandemic has eased these restrictions and biases. Meaning more opportunities for Asian lawyers.
Patel's views echoed throughout the conference as a leading light for law firms.
At the end of the conference, he received an award for his contributions to the legal field, which he accepted with much gratitude. His demeanour exuded humility. He dedicated the award to his decade-long journey and hard-work for it is the journey that gave him the wisdom that seldom comes from MBA or law schools.