LexTalk World Talk Show with Anupam Prasad, Founder Partner at AP Law Chambers


LexTalk World goes into a one to one communication with Mr. Anupam Prasad, Founder Partner at AP Law Chambers. He began his career with Nishit Desai Associates, A Tier I law firm in Bangalore in 2006. He was an associate and also a corporate commercial law team advising and assisting clients on MNEs venture capital investments, employment laws, and general corporate advisory work.

In February, 2020, he founded AP law chambers with like-minded professionals with past experience of working and leading law firms, such as Khaitan & Co, Shah Associates with offices in Mumbai, New Delhi, Hyderabad, and Singapore. The pleasure of having his company was on us.


Host: Kindly take us through your professional journey, so far.


Anupam: It was in the year 2006 that I graduated just from a NUJS Calcutta, which is one of the leading your schools of the country. And we were just the second batch. So there was a lot of onus on us, how we paved the way for the university going ahead as being an alumni. So being placed with the associates in 2006 as a fresher, as part of the corporate and commercial stream, you obviously you're still kind of being in the mode of figuring it out what is expected out of you. Of course as a fresher, you do have certain advantages of getting certain leeway, even if you make mistakes. But obviously you know, the rope runs out pretty soon.


But in fact we are very encouraged, especially in the beginning of our careers to partake in various areas of law. Which when I look back in hindsight, since it's been about 15 years since I joined an initiative, they say associates, we have been encouraged to partake in various practices of law.


It was good in a sense that you got to know what other sector of laws part of commerce, corporate and commercial stream. We had dabbled with employment laws, even litigation, information technology, just so on and so forth. In MNA transaction, for instance, you not only have only one, you have flavors of everything else you're dealing with. If it's a tech company, then technology and so on. And as we move ahead, obviously technology is becoming significantly important irrespective of the sector that you are in.


And so that was in Bangalore until 2010, I was there and thereafter I moved to Khaitan and company. Again, in fact, I was hired in the infrastructure practice, which is something new for me. And in fact I told them that my earlier law firm did not really have an infrastructure practice for this hire. However at the end of the day, the basis of law remains the same in terms of contracts, act, and transfer property and so on and so forth.


So, for me it was more of a new practice area, which I may perhaps enjoy it more than what I was already doing. It's not that I was not enjoying what I was doing earlier, but I thought, yes, why not? Let's try something new. So that, uh, I was part of the infra team for about two years. I moved to the corporate and securities team, in terms of something which I was doing earlier also. And, then I was in Khaitan & Company for about three and a half years. And then after I went to take a break because work-wise things are very hectic, in fact. So I thought, okay, it's been seven years.


I thought let me take some breather because my schedule was office home, home office. That's about it during those times I decided to take a break. At that when I had some time to catch up with say non-lawyers or my friends, you know, whom we would just perhaps exchange messages and talk, and then they got to know that I am a lawyer.


We knew you arrived, but we didn't know what you did. They knew then that I help companies who were startups. They had their own ventures and thus they asked me to help them out. And that was pretty exciting because you were kind of in a module and a freelancing stage and you were getting paid for it also.


So it's nothing like, you know, owning your own bucks. And then after called one of my friends, he had his own startup law firm. I mean, he reached out to you and you were working together. At that time I didn't get into an organizational set up, which of course made a lot of sense then. But after that I was a part of them, a startup law firm, which was initiated by a friend of mine from college.


I was there for about, almost three years and I was taking care of the business operations. And of course this was my first initiation into the entrepreneurial side of things also because you're not only, working on the legal side of things, but also the business side of things. This was a situation where you were running an office. So there was a lot of administrative stuff, business decisions that one needed to take in additional client delivery. So, that was something new but exciting at the same time. I mean, of course it was a lot of learning for us being a, of a law firm. You're responsible for the salaries, the hiring and so on and so forth, which early of course was taken care of by somebody else.


That was a good experience for me. I spent about three years in that role and with my team on around April, 2016, I moved to another law firm called Indus Law. And I joined there as a partner and I was taking care of the Corporate Commercial Law practice again, of course, in a larger setup.


Things are working in a different framework and each organization has their own set up and mode of functioning. And of course they had their expectations also in terms of getting client and other forms of business development. So as of January last year, I was a part of it and thereafter, I decided that maybe it's time that I did something on my own.


And that's what you see me today in the form and position of APR chambers. So in a nutshell, that has been my 15 year old journey so far.


Host: We would really love to know about your most memorable case and, some of the key takeaways from that.


Anupam: Sure. I mean, it's a difficult question in the sense that it covers various matters. It's unfair to pinpoint one of them. Of course, there are some transactions that we're involved in and they have their own set of challenges, but at the same time there have been learning’s too, which hold your good for the long term to come.

So I remember, I mean, while I was in this associates or the transaction, which we had hoped would get over based on the firm's past experience, maybe six or seven months, but it went on for almost two years. And when it, it didn't close, thankfully, because a lot of times what happens are that a lot of these transactions just follow the cliff and for whatever reason do not close for evaluation of the circumstances and promoters mindset. But it would be interesting like recently in my current role, and especially since the past few ones have been pretty challenging, in light of the current pandemic and the COVID situation spanning out a lot of deals got stuck. While we are a small setup, we did manage to get a bunch of transactions, which is good considering it was a difficult year.


And one of the transactions was sort of falling off because the investors’ thoughts and the valuation and what they had thought would not work out because nobody had thought it they're logged on for so many months and businesses would suffer. However it was it was interesting and it was important that the promoter salvage the deal.


So in fact that we had proposed them as to whatever investments that had planned to make, to break into tranches and put certain conditions, in relation to the subsequent, tranche that you would meet. So that helped to salvage the deal. Of course, the valuation was sort of a book, to us like a level, but having said that, the company needed some cash inflows to operate. So that happened and it was good to see especially to form assets, which we could kind of orchestrate. And, I built a case in that transaction that we have.


Host: So, Mr. Anupam, how do you look at corporate law and commercial laws in 2021? And, how do you think it's going to change maybe five years down the line?


Anupam: I think it's a very clichéd way of stating it is as dynamic as it is always changing. And especially when we talk to our clients in the tech side, we always say, you know, it takes time to catch up as technology is obviously moving ahead. But having said that, of course, you know, every year, especially during this time of the year, when there's a budget passed, there is a lot of changes that are introduced to the legal system, along with internal law. In fact, if we collect recollect recently that in the budget it was announced by the honorable finance minister, there's a proposal to introduce something called the security score.


Now of course we did have the laws, like I said, we have depository act and you know, the securities contract regulation act so on and so forth, which is now proposed to be subsumed into something called the security score. Now that makes a lot of sense, firstly, because for the regulator, all of this remains semi and at times, if you look historically also, and from the case laws as well, they have a lot of issues that have been overlapping in nature.


So when you look at multiple laws now that when you have one law, it perhaps can ease out those issues and even help not to have those issues being litigated upon because now you're looking at one set of laws. Similarly, I mean, not necessarily in the commercial law space, but again, labor laws also are an important aspect of it.

There are four labor codes that are passed recently. They are not coming to effect unless they are published officially by the government. So these labor codes will be replaced with more than 30 legislations.


It will help, to ensure Labour compliances. This has always been a sticky subject

because it's also a state subject and States also have a right to legislate. I think developments would take place. I would not call it dispute resolution, but it would be an offshoot of ADR that is alternate dispute resolution in terms of, mediation.


Recently there was this consumer protection act, which was overhauled completely, which provides for mediation. So mediation is a sort of a pre court procedure driven by the parties themselves that they agree to. They get a mediator appointed and they, the mediator doesn't act as a judge or an arbitrator, but tries to get the parties to settle in, with the best case scenario. So that it's a win-win situation because the litigation has its own merits in terms of the time required, the costs and that may not be a remedy. So perhaps mediation could be considered as an alternative to the standard legal procedures that we have. So I think in all, a lot of changes across the spectrum that we are expecting to see as we move ahead.


Host: In the light of the current pandemic, how did you manage your law firm? Especially just before the lock down that you formally started operating as a law firm, and thus it must have been very difficult.


Anupam: In fact, I wish nobody would have guessed that there's a lock down coming in. It was in March, in Mumbai, the lockdown was called a few days earlier. I believe it was 17th, March onwards. So I really did not see it coming, but it is too late to sort of go back into something else to have a plan B really.


And even when you are sort of thinking of starting something of your own, the homework begins much before that. I would say, I always believe there's somebody up there watching all of us you know? So, that way, when I sort of left in January, my last organization, some of the clients also moved along with me. So that kind of helped me to hit the ground running and ensure I keep raising my invoices and ensure my EMI's and my bills are paid. And in fact, since then, we have had a number of new clients, and as we speak also, we are in discussions. On at least three or four transactions, I would not say they're major, but anything smaller is not bad for us considering our size.


And the best part of it is these have opportunities or the requirements that have come in, is through referrals. And people have my phone number who has known me from the past. It's never been a cold call from anywhere that, you know, we are a company or we are an investor looking for something.


So I think, therefore there's lot more we can do considering all of this, what we have achieved so far has happened more through referrals and friends and family and so on and so forth. So, that, that way I would say that we have been pretty lucky and blessed.


Host: I hope that stays the same way for you. So what advice would you give to any fellow lawyers who may be thinking of starting off on their own?


Anupam: Well, I think it's a lot of people consider this as a brave decision, you know, whenever, even when I did that to see, okay, I mean, that's, that's a big call to take and, you know, especially when you are short off your monthly salary or whatever, hitting your account. But I have always believed that law as a profession, you know, is more entrepreneurial driven. So I would believe whenever, whichever part of life, one should certainly try doing this by themselves. Also, however long, the tenure may be with this for short term, midterm or long term, you need to experience it to feel that adrenaline rush. Of course, there's not a stress also that comes with it because, everything begins and ends with you.


You know, there's nobody when you have a question or, you know, an area of law, which you don't have answers to. What do you do?


I said, we talked to our seniors. I talked to my former bosses, it is impossible to know everything, nobody can claim that. So we also need to read up and in this profession, particularly you need to be reading continuously because position of law is changing. So, it's very important that we kind of keep ourselves up to date with, what's relevant and what’s not.


So the magic question, to start on your own, I think anytime is the right time. Of course you need to ensure that you have built some kind of base of clients. That should, uh, you know, you need to reach out to somebody tomorrow or they need some help. And why should we do the homework? Well, I believe the pie is huge. I mean, whether you are the largest firm in the country to the smallest one, there's enough work, it's where you want to benchmark yourself. That is really relevant, right? So I think, yeah, I think I always tell any, everybody asks me what, what, when is it the right time to do it?


I would say now, now is right. We know that you're now is, you know, so that's all I would like to suggest.


Host: If it's not taken, it should not be taken as a challenge. But it is a kind of a risk, so would you like to add something to this?


Anupam: Sure. I mean, I think anything has the risk and even the current work you're doing the transaction. The matter you're handling, if not then, well, there's an element of risk. And at the end of the day, you're dealing with various people. Also, some people may be kind, some may not be, and somebody will sit as soon as possible. So risk is anyway there. I tell people, that even if you're crossing the road, there's a risk. You don't know something; it might just come out of the blue.

So I think yes, one has to be a little pragmatic. One cannot be stupid about things. When in doubt, ask your peers, ask the seniors, ask your contemporaries. So even when I did whatever I, you know, I've done so far, there has been a thought process. It's not that a lot of people believe, okay. Maybe he comes from the pedigree or a legacy and, you know, he can't afford to do such a thing. I said, no, we are from a typical middle class background. And we have sort of learned and earn things by assets. You know, there's no silver spoon anywhere in the picture or anything else. But as I said, you know, higher the risk higher is the reward.


So yeah, I think that that's the bottom line and there are perks to working on your own. You don't have anyone to report to. Uh, you can decide when you want to work. You don't want to work. Like I have a friend who I generally he's for his own setup. So ask him how to, how do you operate? How do they do? He tells me boss, once I make X amount of money in a month, I start chilling because I know I have covered account for the next few months.


So it's how you, what you want to do off it. And, I think, there's no formula really. And it all depends on what you want. Some people are happy with X. Some people are happy with not happy with whatever you get, so you need to draw the line. And, as I said there are opportunities for everyone.


You just need to go out and. Just show your face around, be sincere. As I said, you know, don't try to fool people. I mean, there are people much smarter than you out there as well. So just be sincere. And I always tell people, you can lie to the world. You can like yourself, so that accountability has to start with, and I'm sure everything will fall into place.


There are. Yeah. I'm not sure if I've answered your question correctly, but, and I'm really sorry. I added on to the questions and, you know, I, I was just curious so that if audiences, I'm sure these are, these are the kinds of questions which we'll drop in the comments. So I just wanted to give them an insight about this as well.

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