Libertatem Magazine

Interview with Mr. Bhumesh Verma, Managing Partner of Corp Comm Legal, Delhi

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Mr. Bhumesh Verma graduated in Law from Faculty of Law, the University of Delhi in 1994. He received the coveted Chevening Scholarship by the UK Government in 2000 whereunder he studied at College of Law, York, and worked with Ashurst’s’ London Office. He started his career at Ajay Bahl & Co. (now part of AZB & Partners) and went on to become a partner at some of the leading Indian law firms such as Khaitan & Co., Paras Kuhad & Associates, Advocates, and Link Legal. Currently, Mr. Bhumesh Verma is one of the leading Indian Senior Corporate Practitioners (consistently ranked in the ‘A-List’ of the Top 100 Indian Lawyers by India Business Law Journal) and the Managing Partner of Corp Comm Legal, an independent Indian Law Firm headquartered in New Delhi.

Libertatem Magazine’s Apuroopa interviewed Mr. Verma and below is an excerpt from the same.

Apuroopa: How did the idea of founding Corp Comm legal, a corporate law firm of your own occur to you? It would be great if you could share your journey from starting the firm to becoming a renowned firm known for its personal attention to clients. How is Corp Comm Legal different from other law firms?

Bhumesh Verma: I worked in big, mid-sized, and boutique law firms for about 23 years. However, I never had an employee mindset, I was always entrepreneurial in my approach – always took ownership of my actions. Despite being a non-family or non-promoter partner, I treated these firms like my own and did everything that one needs to operate one’s own firm – business promotion, execution, CLE (Continued Legal Education), participation in management and growth of the firm and so on. I did not ever hesitate in taking new initiatives. As a result, I cultivated good relationships with corporates and professionals across the world all this while.

After all this, I realized there was a good potential to be tapped through a boutique law firm that would provide world-class services with more personal attention, accessibility, hands-on approach at much economical billing rates – value for money proposition. Not all clients can afford or are ready to pay for your brand name, 100-year history, fancy software, or the latest cars or farmhouses.

Thus, Corp Comm Legal was born in New Delhi with a great network within and outside India. We are a global law firm, in that sense. A client coming to us can be assured of the same level of top-notch service, irrespective of the transaction value and fee amount.

I have very consciously chosen out of the rat race, so we are not in a hurry to be amongst the biggest or renowned law firms. We’d rather be good at what we do and reckon as the first choice for our clients.

We do not market ourselves by way of sponsoring events, buying listings, nominating ourselves for awards, etc. and rather concentrate on rendering the best services to our clients. It serves our purpose as the clients only become our brand ambassadors. Most of our work is out of repeat business with existing clients or through reference by our existing clients to potential ones.

Apuroopa: A lot of law students nowadays look forward to building a career in the corporate sector solely because they think the financial prospects involved in the same are greater as compared to litigation and judiciary. Due to this thinking, they often end up giving up upon other law practice areas which fascinated them and get themselves involved in the corporate law field. Do you think that ideology and approach are correct?

Bhumesh Verma: Well, if you are successful in any profession, money follows automatically. The choice of any profession for that matter should be driven by your interest, personality, and potential, not merely how lucrative it is. For that matter, movie stars and sportspersons are the richest professionals in the world, isn’t it?

Similarly, many students jump in or are forced by their parents in the legal profession assuming it is a very lucrative career. I feel the legal profession is the one with a maximum gestation period unless you are born in a family of lawyers or with a silver spoon in some other way. For a first-generation professional, legal practice is among the most difficult ones to establish a name in.

Within the different practice verticals, the corporate practice may be more paying in the initial phase, particularly if you get a placement with a good law firm. However, this feeling of elation or having made it big very early may vanish soon if you cannot sustain or survive the grill that comes with it. Every practice area has a good amount of business and resultant money if you are serious, dedicated, and hardworking enough. You should never go for a practice area just because you feel it fetches you good returns from day one. Do what you feel like doing instead.

On the contrary, I observe that most of the richest lawyers are litigators and not corporate lawyers!

Apuroopa: Do you think that in order to build up a good CV, the kind which would impress employers, necessarily requires a law student to participate in moots and write research papers even if the student doesn’t have an interest in doing so? Also, can that be compensated with good internships?

Bhumesh Verma: Let me start with a question.

Don’t we pursue extra-curricular activities and courses on different subjects in addition to the normal school curriculum from very early in life? Should it stop once you enter law college and you should become a bookworm, a nerd?

These activities are designed with a view to cultivate, nurture, and guide you to become a better legal professional.

However, everyone has different interests and skillsets and should pursue whatever one is interested in or gets opportunities.

All efforts are it moots, writing, researching, internships have their benefits. You should be receptive to most opportunities that come to you. You should also be entrepreneurial enough to create such opportunities if your college/authorities are not too dynamic in this regard.

Having said that, other things remaining the same, if the academic record of 2 students is almost identical, participation in events, writing, researching, etc. may weigh in the mind of recruiters and may tilt the balance in favor of the one who is more active.

Apuroopa: India has witnessed a series of corporate scandals over the last decade with alarming regularity. Investigations into those scandals by law enforcement agencies have revealed a trend of falsification of accounts to show artificial profits, which appeared to benefit Managing Director/ CEOs and other executive directors. Are you of the opinion that all senior-level appointments that are entitled to draw profit-linked commission, bonuses, etc., should have specific clawback clause in the employment contract, which will also act as a deterrence to such malpractices?

Bhumesh Verma: Indeed, we are witnessing the committing of corporate fraud at an unprecedented pace. A silver lining is that such cases are being detected very expeditiously and efficiently as well and the wrongdoers are being taken to task.

We have seen clawbacks being enforced by several companies in respect of the unlawful enrichment of such professionals by engaging in corporate wrongdoings.

With more powers and discretions should come more accountability. Therefore, clawbacks are a good idea and should indeed be a part of the Employment Contracts so that the appointees are forewarned and think twice before becoming a party to such misdeeds. This will also raise the confidence of all stakeholders that the company is not a mute spectator if the professional indulges in ultra vires or illegal actions.

Apuroopa: With its asset quality deteriorating at an increasing rate, the liquidity in the para banking industry has been squeezed off to its last drops during the COVID-19 lockdown, especially. The increasing loan losses and inaccessibility to new capital is likely to exacerbate the liquidity stress. What is your opinion about the same and what do you think can be done for the situation to get better?

Bhumesh Verma: Covid19 and the resultant countrywide lockdown have brought about unprecedented challenges before the corporates, economy, and government per se. To top it, it may be too early to predict as to how long the current situation will prevail.

The Central government has come up with a massive economic package including a good pipeline of easy liquidity for corporates including MSMEs, start-ups, etc. in view of Covid19.

Once the dust settles on Covid19 and we return to the new normal in our day to day and corporate lives, an efficient implementation of the package will be crucial for survival, sustenance, and growth of the Indian industry and economy. The government will need to be innovative and dynamic in its approach to handle the challenges, as they come about.

Apuroopa: You have mentioned the lack of teaching practical skills of law that are instrumental in preparing a law student to work their way through the legal minefield. How do you propose students should be educated about these practicalities because most law firms or lawyers do not delegate serious work to law interns?

Bhumesh Verma: Students should not take internships as a timepass or for the sake of certificates only.

This could be a good opportunity for them to learn practical skills if they land up with a good law firm or a dynamic partner leading them.

You should sound interested and proactive in your approach when you intern. One can easily make out from your initial reaction to the smallest of assignments handed to you.

If, however, you do not get a chance to get good internships where under you get to learn traits of good drafting, arguing, researching, etc., you should create such opportunities on your own. Today, you can undertake online courses, attend webinars, online internships, etc. on subjects of your choices. Most colleges organize guest lectures, boot camps, workshops, etc. in association with practicing professionals as well. You should never miss it and participate with full enthusiasm and zeal.

Frankly, I feel, there is no excuse anymore for a student to say she didn’t get enough exposure during her college days.

Apuroopa: The COVID-19 pandemic has proved to be a jolt for everyone. How has the virus affected the workings of Corp Comm Legal? How are you circumventing the dire circumstances to keep your business running?

Bhumesh Verma: We had adopted a very flexible work culture from day one at Corp Comm Legal when we started in April 2017.

Apart from the regular team at the office, we have associates working remotely from different locations.

We cannot take chances with the health and security of our team, given the scale and size of the Covid19 scare in Delhi NCR.

Since the lockdown, we have allowed our teams to operate 100% from their respective places – most research resources are available online, most meetings with team and clients are taking place online and most of the work including Due Diligence, Negotiations and Documentation are taking place in a virtual world.

Therefore, we’ve been able to keep our functioning and response time at pre-Covid19 levels despite the lockdown. Luckily, we haven’t even had to reduce compensation or shed workshop as our business hasn’t seen a dip.

Apuroopa: Lastly, what advice would you like to give to law students who look forward to being a corporate lawyer? And what would be your advice for the lawyers who have been practicing for years now and want to open their own law firm? What tips would you like to give so that it may help them in the first few years?

Bhumesh Verma: As I mentioned before, legal practice is a tough nut to crack, more so for a first-generation professional. One needs a lot of patience, persistence, hard work, sincerity, and eye for details to make a mark in the profession.

Further, it is much tougher to set a corporate practice than a litigation practice. Most of the time, young lawyers start with corporate law firms if they wish to pursue corporate practice and take a plunge only after few years, unlike litigation lawyers who may find it a tad easier to get small stake litigation matters from day one.

You should start thinking of starting on your own if you have an entrepreneurial spirit, a good network that could ensure a steady (even if slow) flow of work. Most importantly, it would need a lot of patience and stable temperament, else depression over momentary ups and downs will creep in.

Wish you all the best.

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