Welcome to ILN-terviews, a series of profiles of ILN member firm attorneys, designed to give a unique insight into the lawyers who make up our Network. For our latest interview, we chose ILN member, Alishan Naqvee of our member firm LexCounsel Law Offices in New Delhi, India.
In one sentence, how would you describe your practice?
Broadly based, as we are handling all sorts of corporate and commercial work to litigation and arbitrations.
Who would be your typical client?
An Indo-foreign joint venture or its partners, Indian businesses and of course some very exciting technology start-ups with innovative solutions for various sectors of the economy.
We admire working for the start-ups and don’t mind even adjusting our fee close to their affordability. This is in return for the intellectual stimulation that one gets and the energy level one experiences working with the start-ups. After working with a few of them, your role is not limited to just being a lawyer – you effectively become their strategy partner. Within a year or two, you either have a success story to tell, or a lifetime friend who starts up another equally exciting venture, or both. This affable breed of entrepreneurs is different. While you are discussing their business, they start discussing yours. One such entrepreneur told me about three years back “the world is moving onto smartphones, and we would spend more and more time in the virtual world. How is your law firm getting onto the smartphone for delivery of services or for direct acquisition of clients? What’s your app, don’t say LinkedIn or facebook?” And then, he picked up his smartphone, animatedly scrolled through his home screens, looked up directly at me and asked bluntly “Why don’t I have LexCounsel on my cell phone?”
The point was not to justify my “non-existence” to him except in his mailbox or phonebook, but to understand what he was trying to convey. I still haven’t found my “Uber app” solution for direct client acquisition, beyond social networking. In a few seconds, he gave me something to think about for years!
What would you like clients and potential clients to know about you?
You are in safe hands of experienced and helpful lawyers. We help you make informed business calls, and reduce unpleasant surprises for you.
What has been your most challenging case?
A case I eventually withdrew, but which raised a vital question concerning corporate bankruptcy in India. The question was finally answered by a legislative amendment, forcing us to withdraw the case thereafter. I learnt a lot in the process, especially on how to tread in the uncertain landscape that comes soon after enactment of a new law and during the evolutionary phase of a new practice area.
What has been your proudest moment as a lawyer?
Once I was arguing a matter before the Delhi High Court, opposed by a very senior designated advocate, who is well regarded across India as an expert on constitutional law and tax, having authored many books. The arguments and counter arguments went on for almost half a day, and most other matters were discharged. Still there were a few lawyers who continued to sit through. In the end, when I was walking out of the court room, two lawyers whom I didn’t know patted on my shoulders, whispering in my ears “well argued”, and one shook hands with me outside the court room. All through the hearing, I felt that the other lawyers were sitting there to hear the “expert” argue. That too, but perhaps I also made the battle interesting somewhere. A favourable order would be for the client, but the shoulder pats were exclusively mine!
What do you do when you’re not practicing law?
Pro bono work, playing badminton, watching movies with family on the weekends. And yes, late night short drives with my wife to nearby tea-stalls.
What would surprise people most about you?
It used to be my age (clients I worked with, felt I was older, till they met me in person). Not anymore though, I recently completed 20 years of law practice and I do not color my salt and pepper hair – please however note that the pepper is still more than the salt. Anyway, now I think the clients like me for my ability to think on my feet and to keep the atmosphere lighter even during stressful negotiations or court battles. We make better choices when we are not angry. Thus, getting your opposition angry, without you yourself getting angry, sometimes works as an effective strategy.
What has been your most memorable ILN experience?
Oh my God, must I honestly answer that question?! Joking. Honestly, too many memories. Bian Lian dance at the first Gala Dinner I attended in Singapore way back in 2010 was just the beginning. At ILN, “lawyers make friends”. And I have just lots and lots of them within the ILN, and associated memories. During the one to one networking session in Stockholm, I was sitting alone for a moment. Someone asked “what are you doing alone?”. I replied “I am from India, I am doing some spiritual meditation for the success of all the participants!”. Friends laughed together.
What career would you have chosen if you weren’t a lawyer?
Indian armed forces. After I started my law practice, the results came of a national level exam I had previously participated in. I was selected, I joined and then came back to law practice due to some considerations at home at the relevant time.
If a movie were made about your life, who would you want to play you?
Me, I want to try my hands at acting. Plus, why shall I let someone else take credit of my failures?
How would you like to be remembered?
Someone asked me at a roundtable meeting recently “So Alishan, what type of a lawyer are you?”. I replied “A good lawyer”. That’s how I would like to be remembered, with some bits of passion, compassion, humor and joy thrown in – and yes, some salt and pepper.