Interview with Mr. Adarsh Somani, Director at Economic Law Practices, Mumbai

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Lavanya Ambalkar
I'm a 3rd-year student at Symbiosis Law School, Pune. My interest lies in Corporate and Intellectual Property Law and I am also the Founder and Chief Editor of "Reipublicae", a legal-political blog.

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Adarsh Somani is a Director at Economic Law Practices, Mumbai and part of firm’s tax practice. He is a Chartered Accountant and a law graduate from University of Rajasthan.

Adarsh assists several multinational and domestic companies in deploying tax efficient value chains in business. He has now been servicing clients for more than a decade. Adarsh inter-alia extensively focusses on Goods and Services Tax matters and tax policy issues. Adarsh’s skill sets also include contract structuring, negotiations as well as transaction advisory from a tax perspective.

Major industries for Adarsh include Pharma & FMCG, Financial Services, and retail businesses.

He is a regular speaker at tax conferences and conventions and has also co-contributed a paper on ‘Valuation and Classification under GST’ for ICAI in past. He regularly writes columns for various online and offline publications.

Prior to joining ELP, Adarsh has worked at BMR Advisors and Ernst & Young.

Lavanya: There have been times when legal studies were not recognized as a good career option. However, many students are voluntarily opting for law in the present time. What motivated you to take up law as a career? Please share your experience with us.

Mr. Somani: I do not with precision recall the finer aspects.  But I was persuaded to take up law as it was difficult to find another field of study that so profoundly and clearly impacts & pervades business, society & humanity at the same time. Also, it was available for one to witness the prestige & position that eminent lawyers enjoy – so thought of taking up this as a career option in equal zest to make name & find fame.

For those, who believe that legal studies is not a good/ great career option, just one word – this profession is all things ART; so unless you are really creative unlikely that you’ll be able to see the extremely bright light at the tunnel.

Lavanya: You are a certified CA from The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India as well as a law graduate from the University of Rajasthan. How does being a CA help you in fulfilling the role of a lawyer? How do you think, being a law graduate as well as a CA has helped you in your career?

Mr. Somani: Let’s set the record straight – both push you for having an ‘eye for detail’ and hence, the learnings would well compliment. Having two such degrees would imply you have trained twice over for the best approach to your job!

Do not necessarily read a recommendation, in above, to have both degrees – either degree with good professional attributes would still be as effective as anything. Self-belief is more important that degrees on your resume.

Lavanya: You appeared for CA exams while you were doing your bachelor’s in commerce as well as in law. What challenges did you face in managing your schedule? Did you find it difficult, pursuing two courses side by side? What advice would you like to give to undergraduate students who are appearing in CA exams while pursuing LLB?

Mr. Somani: Students pursuing multiple degrees simultaneous should always be clear that neither should be pursued for the sake of it.  That’s the start point of you paying attention to what different courses would expect out of you. Next up is to be Organized!

Back in the day, as students, we were suggested by our mentors to always have study targets written and compared on a daily basis.  That would let you know, in serious written terms, where do you stand on a daily basis and ofcourse allow you to re-augment the timetable as and when required.  In the hindsight, if I wouldn’t have done exactly that way, studies would have become a burden instead of choice.

Most importantly as a student, doing any number of courses, if one follows virtues of यम, नियम & संयम in their conduct most of the problems would not even dare to arise.

Lavanya: You have achieved a lot in your career. However, there might have been times when you might have faced setbacks. What kind of setbacks does one have to face in the legal field and how to grow despite such setbacks?

Mr. Somani: One permanent risk that any career runs is about growth being stalled. It happens for a variety of reasons, including some beyond control.

CHOICES – Everything that is within one’s control is addressed by your efforts on the job.  The start point is choosing a field/ job that you would love to do, a wrong career choice would always be marred by performance depicting a lack of care or interest and that no one appreciates.

BE A FORETELLER – The second, and the most important part, is to be keep reinventing yourself – laws would change and you are, therefore, required to change too?  Some people say reading a lot helps; however, in my assessment – I have never seen mere reader becoming a leader.  People ahead of the curve preempt and basis that pre-emption prepare. This preparation makes you a thought leader and stagnation proof.

WEAR A SMILE – there are instances when the setback is contributed by factors beyond your control. However, if you can smile in the face of that adversity that helps the pain to subside a great deal.  I am firm believer that a setback would always teach you a lesson, which would be important for rest of your career/ life. This lesson expects you to work harder on the problem and now that one knows such things happen, at least don’t let it happen again.

One other peculiar setback in the legal field is the cost of your decision/ interpretation of law.  Most budding lawyers wish to take the right approach and that may have current or future costs associated with it.  Some costs may never surface too but that’s not important as taking chances is never so good.  The easy solution/ approach to this issue is to simulate the impact of your work and see does it achieve real objectives – always aim for a legal interpretation, which is balanced; legal writing, which is clear and unambiguous; and legal talk, which is just what it needs to be and far from being flowery or colloquial.

Lavanya: As the government is moving towards a cashless economy, section 31 A has been inserted in Central Goods and Services Tax Act. This new section inserted in the CGST Act will mandate certain registered suppliers to give their recipients the option of prescribed modes of electronic payment. This move will also help prevent the evasion of taxes.What is your take on this? Please share your views.

Mr. Somani: Evasion of taxes is a mindset issue.  Though e-payment is a good step but will it combat everything, am unsure.  Compliance is attracted when laws are simple, procedures are not costly and administration is fair.  I don’t want to speculate how far are we from an ideal situation, when evasion of taxes would a thing of past.

Lavanya: You have been working with your law firm, Economic Laws Practice for quite some time. What kind of business relationships do you believe a lawyer must maintain with his/her clients to secure a long and stable association?

Mr. Somani: The clients broadly need lawyers (or if I can say consultants) for two streams of their requirements – one which is critical and other one is routine.  These requirements could be addressed by replaceable resources as there is no lack of capabilities in the marketplace.

If you have to stand out of the league, ideation and consistent value delivery is what one has to focus on.  Remember pre-empting aspect above, if you can be the foreteller for your client, they’ll love you.

Lavanya: It is a common perception among law students that pursuing CA/CS along with their law degree would ensure them a high- paying job. Do you think that this ideology is correct and that law students should have a back-up qualification? In your opinion, do these courses help degree holders to secure top positions in the corporate industry?

Mr. Somani: What you make for yourself out of a job is directly relatable to what do you bring on the table for the user. And, there is no reference to your degree in this.  So remember that while multiple degrees can arguably give you a good start but your performance alone would take you forward.  Focusing on your capabilities and delivering the job alone is the guarantee for success, the degrees are not.

Insofar as money making is concerned for service providers, lawyers/ CA/ CSs all included, there are three attributes of work – Fast, Cheap, Good – one can only pick two at a time (all three rarely co-exists).  With that you know, how to make a quick buck – the formula is clear!


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