LexTalk World (ClickAway Creators) gets into a one to one tete` with Mr Sarosh Zarwalla, Managing Partner of Zaiwalla & Co, from UK. Zaiwalla & Co are renowned Solicitors based out of UK and they are also the Solicitors for the Indian High Commission, Government of India.
In this 30 minutes session with Mr Zaiwalla, he talks about himself, his early Bombay days as a student and his career progression having started in this profession with just 60 Pounds and established the prestigious firm with a Global client base with an impressive success rate of about 85% to 90% in all their cases making them the most sought after Solicitor Firm in UK. Mr Zaiwalla achieved all of that with sheer grit, a deeper understanding of the Legal profession, ingenuity, honesty and sincerity.
He worked with some of the most illustrated professionals, leaders yet he is a person who is extremely grounded and down to Earth.
Host: Welcome to Lex Talk World, organized by Click Away Creators. We have a very special guest with us today. He was the first Solicitor born outside of Europe to start a Law firm in the one square mile of the district of London in the year 1982. He has been named in GQ, UK's 100 most connected men in 2016. He's a former member of the International Court of Arbitration of the ICC Paris, 1990. In 2002, the Indian Prime Minister awarded him for his outstanding contribution to the field of International Arbitration Law.
Please welcome Mr. Sarosh Zaiwalla from Zaiwalla & Co. We are honoured to have you with us today.
Mr. Zaiwalla: It's equally my honor to be invited to speak in this forum. Thank you very much. Although I have lived in England for many years, I am an Indian from the core of my heart.
Host: Well, that is just great to hear. So to start with may I ask request you to give us a brief about your personal and professional journey?
Mr. Zaiwalla: My origin is from Bombay. I did my schooling from St Xavier’s High School and then went ahead to acquire a degree from the Bombay Government College. Taking lead from my Father, who was a Solicitor in England, I went ahead for a degree in Law at England to become a Solicitor too. I migrated with just 60 pounds and a reference of Late, Mr Batrawala, who was a Minister with the Maharashtra Govt. Here I am today, what you see of me now; life has been a cradle of great learning, experience and subsequent successes. During my Internship days I had the great fortune to meet, befriend and have as a mentor, Mr Cedric Bartlett, a very eminent English Arbitrator who persuaded me to start on my own after passing qualifying as a Law Professional. His version was that, if I would work for a big Law Firm, I wouldn’t get quicker recognition and rewards of my professional success, despite putting in the best. What followed after that is a quick turn of events and meeting the right people at the right place, starting with my association with Shri & Gopi Hinduja, of the Hinduja Bros. They were also new to UK and had just moved in from Iran. So I joined them on a part time basis as an unqualified Legal adviser, Interpreter and a Negotiator while doing training with Stock In & Co. Hence I started on my own from a very modest small office at 29, Museum Street at London.
Host: Amazing and very interesting. Please go on sir....
Mr Zaiwalla: During that time I met the then High Commissioner of India, Dr Syed Mohammed a brilliant, honest, and a very clean man. He was Kerala's advocate general and during the emergency period he was Mrs Gandhi’s Minister of State for Law. Dr Mohammed took a great fancy on me, as I was an Indian and a Parsi and appointed me as the Solicitor for the Indian High Commission.
I started representing cases for the Indian Govt. At that time India was going through a acute food shortage and President Johnson had donated free wheat under the PL 480 scheme. But India had to charter ships for two years at 250 to 300 ships a year and inevitably there were delays from the Indian Govt in paying the shipping companies and their accrued interests. As the Indian Govt’s Solicitor I had to fight those cases for India. Out of all the cases there was a case which went to the House of Lords, against a shipping line La Pintada and that was the first case won by me. Toni Blair, Ex PM of Britain was working under me at that time and it was considered very upmarket to be a Maritime lawyer.
Similarly in 1982 I won another case for a Dubai based company called Global Shipping, part of Al Shiraji Group. There was this Jumeira Beach resort shipment which was up for arbitration. Arbitrator, Patrick Bartlett transferred the hearing to New Orleans. And that was a great experience, too, because it was quite a famous case that these two cases give me a very lucky break. We had lots of work in those days.
We are on the verge of staring another case for the Venezuelan Central Bank which deposited huge reserves of Gold with the bank of England. It would be a 1.7 billion dollar claim.
Last year we won a claim against Her Majesty’s Govt for the Bank of Iran in which Bank of Malard was involved in the Iranian nuclear proliferation. And coach said; let the sanctions remain so the whole bank literally went out of business because of the international bank. After being challenged in the Supreme Court we won in that landmark case giving us victory of 1.6 billion dollars settled into a 9 figure claim. That case in itself made the headlines as it was a historic judgement.
These are my credentials. I was a member of the International Court of Arbitration of the ICC, where I represented for 8 years with Fali Nariman as the vice chairman of the ICC court.
Host: It just goes on to say that if one has determination, they can really achieve anything. You know, come to think of it with 60 pounds to what do you achieve today and on these fabulous claims, you know, working with such fancy people, all stars in the industry. So this really goes to say that if you have the determination, you can really achieve anything.
Mr Zaiwalla: Right values, ethics, honesty, integrity and being extremely polite gives a lot of things in return in this Industry. In Britain, that even in the courts, if you disagree, so long as you say things courteous, you can say the most horrible things, virtuously, despite no shouting, you will be recognized and respected.
Host: That is just great. I mean, it warms my heart so much to hear the story and the fact that you held on to the ethics and you still practice it with such honesty.
Mr Zaiwalla: People from different corners of the world come to me for help. In a Russian Yukos case, the matter was up for litigation in the Dutch Supreme Court and I was at the background where this Russian company, Yuko was fighting a 50 billion dollar reward case. They had gone to a big firm and after 5 years of international arbitration, they lost to the case of investment arbitration. The case was decided on the merit of an Indian case lead by the decree and award of the case led by Soli Sorabjee, an attorney at that time and former Attorney General of the Indian Supreme Court. And the Yukos case was thus won.
So in the pursuit of the six point case, participated in the Arbitration, the investment treaty was signed by the president of Russia, but it had to be passed by the Russian parliament, Duma, and that was not approved. Therefore, there was no contract, no treaty and no arbitration. So let's see what happens.
Host: What do you consider as the three most important and major aspects of the business, according to you?
Mr Zaiwalla: First major aspect of the business is that you must be sincere and honest. You must honestly advise the client and not just give a feedback to them. If it's a good case or even a bad case, you have to be sincere in your approach. So the most important thing is getting it right as because clients have come to you for justice.
Second, the most important thing for me is an innovative approach. The firm has made a name for innovative approach to law. There are 36 decided cases in English International Report, but a law was made by Zaiwalla & Co. All documented in my book.
Host: That is amazing. Now we know who to reach out to for any law related advice. This is really amazing. You mentioned honesty. Is there anything else that you would like to mention as the important aspects of this business, especially like this industry?
Mr Zaiwalla: In this business, you have to also get clients. And therefore, good relationship is very important. I tell my young team to be very active in marketing especially at events and seminars. You must understand that you when you meet somebody important, who can be a potential client, within the first 2 minutes; you have to qualify in the following terms. First, the person must like you. If he doesn't like you, you're out. Second, one, be there with a strategy. Two, he must trust you. And third, he must feel that you can deliver. If the three parameters are okay then you have a chance to continue nurturing that Client.
Host: Absolutely, I'm completely in sync with you, these three factors are really important when you want to get Clients.
Mr. Zaiwalla: So to get to work with obstacles, there are always enough of them. When I started in England, I was compelled because I was the only Indian out in the city and the Indian businesses, they would accept and do just one or two of others. So I had to go all over the world to get work. It was a great experience and I got most of the work. Except the government work. But the Dubai, Qatar and Saudi Arabia were good and a lot of Arbitration like the big New Orleans Arbitration came from Dubai.
Host: What prompted you to select International Arbitration as your field?
Mr. Zaiwalla: It was simply by chance! I was trading in a company called Stockin & Co, which was an Arbitration firm doing Maritime Arbitration. And after that, it was the High Commissioner appointed me as the Solicitor of the Indian Government. And every year, two to three hundred Arbitration cases, many of them were settled, they used to all come to me and thus all these work gave me a tremendous experience in International Arbitration.
Host: Amazing! What has been your most memorable case, in the International Arbitration?
Mr. Zaiwalla: I think my most memorable and satisfying case was that of my clients for Indian Oil Corporation from Delhi. They were facing a claim of 18 billion dollars from a company called Coastal Bermuda. And this arbitration was for about a week. Innocent Company and I was the Solicitor representing Indian oil Corporation as they had lost. They were unhappy not because they lost, but because one of the Arbitrators, from the Queen's Counsel, one of the arbitrators, Gordon Porlock, He made a mint, put a Post-it note, effectively saying that, you know that, The Indian Oil’s legal team legal team was incompetent. And if they had put it properly, the result might well have been different. But effectively, he said that if they had a competent team, the result might well have been different. So Mr Ramachandran, who later became the chairman, he was the in International team, said, Mr Zaiwalla, “please save us. We don't mind losing. But with this comment, our heads will be chopped in India”.
These were from the 2 Queen's Counsel. They said no chance because they agreed not to challenge the arbitration award. Indian Oil then they came to me and I did make an application and a completely novel ground, saying that an English public policy if the court allows this judgment, it ought to be converted to a judgment with parties of the right. Then the court would be, allowing enforcing the judgement, which was not based on the true legal analysis of the evidence. Even the parties admit it. And again, everybody said, oh, you can’t argue that they did agree. They can only challenge your award under one of the grounds for an arbitration act. So, we challenged and it came before Mr Justice Evans and we won. And this is a reported case. And Justice Evans said that finality is a good thing but justice is better.
Our emblem is to always come up with new innovative solutions always.
Last week, if you read in the newspapers in India, we had a case of 8 defendants who were being sued by Punjab National Bank for forty five million dollars loan, which they had not repaid back. And there was allegation of fraud and deception. Of course, everyone came to us. We had to get struck off on a very technical ground. Then Punjab National Bank updates the case with a freezing injunction. You just freeze assets. They had not closed that day and they had made the same claim before a debt tribunal. So it went before the court of appeal everywhere and it struck off. Now, these are all innovative approach to law. Most people would say, well, you can do anything. Law is for justice. You can play with the law, but not with the facts. Facts must be absolutely honest. Sincerity has its own merit and the judges too understand and give their decree based on that. This is our strong point and the main reason why we won in almost 85 to 90% of the cases which are taken up by us.
Host: So Mr Zaiwalla, we after coming to the end of our time of the conversation right now. What would be your advice to our young Legal professionals since you've been such a guiding beacon yourself in this industry? What would you like them to do?
Mr. Zaiwalla: I think they must have styled courage because most young lawyers are too scared to take an innovative approach. So you must have a silent courage and you must always be honest, straight and with courtesy. And we must also have a marketing plan, because today it was a very competitive legal market. And it is important that they must know and feel confident when they are going to get a client. You have to be both friendly and effective.
Host: That is indeed great advice to the young people, and thank you for such great insights.
Mr. Zaiwalla: And the biggest case which I had was a personal case, which was because we were shipping lawyers and every shipping case has a legal fees insurance cover. There was a company called Britannia BNA. And they would refuse legal cover to my clients. So I went to the chairman's Mr. Patterson, and he laughed. He said, oh, you're a good man. Ravi Ruia of Essar Group instructed me for two of their ships (This was in the 90s) And I went and they instructed me, but they were also covered by the same insurance company to D'Ettorre Assad. Captain Kumar, come out to withdraw instructions on me. So I complained to the Commission for Racial Equality. And if you I did that in a proper way, not by shouting and screaming. If you read my book, there's a personal letter from John Major, the prime minister, saying that.
Host: So, again, thank you for sharing your insights. It was a pleasure having you with us. Our session today with you sir, would be available in our site and in our social media platforms of Click Away Creators, the link of which would be provided to you. If you like this interview and also want to have more information and current updates on this subject do keep watching our platforms and do subscribe to us. Thank you for taking your time to watch this wonderful conversation.