Interview with Rajeev Rambhatla, Head of Hyderabad Office of King Stubb & Kasiva Advocates & Attorneys

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Rajeev Rambhatla is the Head of Hyderabad Office of King Stubb & Kasiva Advocates & Attorneys, commonly known as KSK. He focuses primarily on commercial litigation, consumer litigation, arbitration, company law and regulatory issues. He has considerable experience in dealing with complex litigation matters and has been a recommended counsel for many multinational corporations doing business in India and abroad. Rajeev advises a broad spectrum of clients, working primarily with institutions, private equity funds, PSU’s, banks and multinational companies. He also acts for a number of Indian companies, particularly in the context of high-profile commercial litigation and dispute resolution.

Read on to know more about Rajeev’s journey from Law School to the Head of Hyderabad Office of King Stubb & Kasiva Advocates & Attorneys.

Vishesh: What motivated you to join law as a profession?

Rajeev Rambhatla: Right from my school days I was always interested in social studies as a subject and I was avid debater which made me realise I have a penchant for public speaking. To be very honest I never planned on doing law per se and it was more of a happy accident of sorts after my 12th standard board exams. I initially planned to do a bachelors degree in commerce before pursuing a future in management as I did commerce in my +2 and I was interested in business subjects. Incidentally, in the summer of 2009, my paternal uncle Prof. Dr. Rambhatla Venkata Rao was appointed as the Vice-Chancellor of National Law School of India University (NLSIU) Bangalore an institution which I had never heard about before at the time. I accompanied my uncle for his swearing-in ceremony and I was very impressed with the campus and the library and the overall concept of modern legal education. Law was not something I had considered until then as a career option but all of a sudden, I knew what I wanted to do.

Vishesh: Please share your experience at Law school. What kind of activities did you participate in?

Rajeev Rambhatla: I studied at School of Law, Christ University, Bangalore and if I had to describe my law school experience in one word I’d say life-changing. I started law school as a boy and I came out as a young man ready to jump into the profession or so I thought. Throughout law school, I continued my schoolboy passion of debating and public speaking. I participated in many parliamentary debates both within the law school and at intra university events winning a few competitions in the process. I participated in a few internal and external moot court competitions and Model United Nations as well. In my second year of law school, I participated in a client counselling competition which was my first and last exposure to such a competition. Overall, a plethora of these public speaking activities gave me a good platform to ready myself for the profession that lay ahead.

Vishesh: You hail from a non-NLU law school. Is there any inherent bias between students of National Law Schools and other Law Schools while recruitment at law firms? Was overcoming this stigma a daunting task?

Rajeev Rambhatla: Well yes and no, there is a stigma only if you let it. I’m a strong believer of the fact that we make our own destiny and having said that irrespective of which law school one goes to, everyone has the potential to be a great lawyer. It also depends on the branch of the profession one intends to choose, for chamber practice or core litigation one’s law school status does not matter whereas the same might make a bit of a difference when it comes to in-house roles or law firm roles. However, that is quickly changing as even employers across practice areas have realized that not all NLU students are exceptional and not all non-NLU students the opposite. Overcoming any stigma is a daunting task only if you let it, ignore the stigma and sooner or letter it will be gone.

Vishesh: What advice would you give for those aspiring to pursue arbitration?

Rajeev Rambhatla: Arbitration and Mediation are offshoots of Litigation in a way as they are very effective tools of dispute resolution. Institutional Arbitration has been on the rise in the recent past and anyone aspiring to make it big in dispute resolution should acquaint themselves with the rules of some of the more prominent institutions such as the London Court of International Arbitration, Singapore International Arbitration Center, Bangalore Arbitration Center and the Delhi International Arbitration Center amongst many others. Being proficient with the rules of these centres and the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 along with the latest case laws will take one a long way in this field.

Vishesh: With law becoming a new commercial industry, what are your views on law students becoming more inclined towards a corporate culture?

Rajeev Rambhatla: Law is a noble profession for a reason and personally I feel it must remain that way. At least core litigation and its practitioners must ensure that it does. Like many other fields, Law also has branched into a few streams such as Core Litigation otherwise known as chamber practice, General Corporate and in-house to name a few. While the latter two incorporate the corporate culture to a large extent, lawyers must remember to incorporate the humility and nobility of our profession in the corporate world and note become capitalist sellouts as it is our responsibility to uphold the rule of law and what it stands for irrespective of our practice area.

Vishesh: Tell us about the job you enjoyed the most and why?

Rajeev Rambhatla: This might sound like a cliched but the most enjoyable job for me has been my ongoing role as Head of the Hyderabad office of a fast-growing law firm, King Stubb & Kasiva (KSK). At what many would call a young age, this role has given me the opportunity to showcase my management and business development skills while also doing what I feel I do best, litigation and dispute resolution. I am very grateful to our managing partner Jidesh Kumar, our senior partner Rajesh Sivaswamy and my very first mentor in KSK and our partner dispute resolution Smita Paliwal for having the faith in me and believing in me to carry out this rather important role.

Vishesh: You have represented a German infrastructure company before the courts and have also advised a UK based client in acquiring an Indian company. What challenges do you think international companies face while dealing with legal conflicts in India?

Rajeev Rambhatla: Well as a young professional I thought that there wasn’t much bias against foreign companies in India and the Indian judiciary and on the contrary, I thought they might have it easy because of their global reputation. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Foreign companies face many regulatory and compliance-related challenges in India. Quite a few judicial institutions tend to take a pro-India or an anti-capitalist approach and this impacts the outcome of the cases that these institutions adjudicate. It’s the same for Indian companies abroad as well, however, it is a sad state of affairs as we live in a global economy now and it would be prudent for us to have a regulatory system which is conducive to foreign companies so that the financial benefits can be reaped by everyone collectively.

Vishesh: You have represented many banks over the past few years. What are the problems banks are facing because of which more and more banks are either shutting down their business or resort to merging?

Rajeev Rambhatla: Banks have faced different kinds of issues over the years and the nature of most of the issues changes along with the financial climate. One issue however all banks face all the time is that of Non-Performing Assets (NPA). NPAs are essentially customers or more specifically borrowers either individuals or body corporates which have stopped repaying loans and evidently have no intention of doing so. This might be an oversimplification of the concept but it is an easy way to understand it. The issue of recovering dues from NPAs was one of the largest legal hurdles for banks traditionally, however, the advent of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 seeks to address this very issue and so far the Code and implementation thereof is being carried out fantastically well thanks to the benches of the NCLT, NCLAT and the IBBI.

Vishesh: How has the legal system been affected because of the outbreak of COVID 19?

Rajeev Rambhatla: The system overall has been very adversely affected with the majority of the courts either not functioning or functioning in a very limited manner with matters being adjourned since March. Barring the Supreme Court, NCLAT, NCLT benches and High Courts of a few states which are functioning through video conferencing, all the other courts are either not functioning or functioning in a very limited manner. This has impacted a lot of pending and potential litigations and litigants alike. We can expect a huge pile-up of fresh matters before the registry once the restrictions ease further.

Vishesh: Since you have experience in company Law, what, according to you, steps must be taken by the Central Government and the state governments to provide assistance to small and medium-sized businesses to overcome the financial losses they have faced?

Rajeev Rambhatla: The Central Government and respective State Governments should in my humble opinion do their best to bail out the small and medium businesses otherwise known as MSMEs. The measured proposed by the Government as of now is in the form of debt and moratoriums which also comes with many riders and Governmental red tape. If these issues can be addressed then we could see the MSMEs truly receiving some much-needed help.

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