Sravanthi is a Founder & Managing Partner of IUSTUS Legal LLP, a boutique law firm in Hyderabad. She is a seasoned Corporate Lawyer having over two decades of diverse experience advising renowned domestic & multinational clients in large complex transactions. She founded Iustus Legal with a vision to provide holistic legal advisory for corporate clientele underpinned by strong legal acumen and a client-centric approach. Iustus means righteous, just & fair which is the motto of the Firm. She counsels clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to start-ups in diversified sectors including IT & ITES, Real Estate, Aviation and Infrastructure; advises on commercial, corporate, real estate transactions, employment matters, M & A; conducts legal due diligence & compliance audits and provides sector-specific advisory. She is adept at strategizing transactions and aligns clients' business requirements within the legal framework. Sravanthi is a Gold Medallist both in her Masters (Corporate Laws) and Bachelors of Law. She also holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Cyber Laws and IPR from the University of Hyderabad and an Executive Certificate in Prevention of Sexual Harassment Law from NUJS, Kolkata. She co-authored a book on consumer protection law. As a strong advocate of giving back to society, Sravanthi plays a critical role in M V Foundation (MVF), a grass root level NGO on child rights that withdrew over 1 million children in 5-14 years ages from work over the last 25 years and were sent to residential and bridge schools.
Host: We would like to know about you and your journey in the legal profession so far and when did you aspire to become a legal professional?
Sravanthi : The first question posed to a child when introduced “What do you want to become when you grow up? Pressure is built even before you learn its spelling. My paternal family has chartered accountants, doctors, engineers, professors, so this was the most logical career path. I have been lucky, as a child there was no pressure from my parents either for getting best marks in academics or choosing a career path as directed by them. This opened my avenues to choose my career path. With my age my career aspirations changed and in my 9th class, I decided to become a lawyer and my parents wholeheartedly encouraged, as I was choosing from obvious career options. I not only completed law but stood University topper with a Goldmedal. Now, when I see that 10 of my younger cousins have chosen law as a profession and are practicing law, I feel I have accomplished something.
I started my career with a law firm where all my seniors were women having diverse expertise. Their first advise was to focus on basics tenets of law & drafting skills, observe & learn legal craft be it representing a client in a court or representing the firm while advising a client. The strength of a mammoth building is not in its façade but lies in its foundation.
Being in Hyderabad was the best thing. Hyderabad was re-christened as IT-Hub (was known as pharma city) and became the epicentre of IT companies paving way to major investors and ventures. With this work spectrum was getting bigger as clients approached the firm seeking guidance on complex to challenging legal issues which opened whole gamut of opportunities for me to explore and excel. I strongly believe having diverse experience helped me to see each matter from diverse perspectives.
I must confess, even after spending more than 20 years in the legal profession I have never regretted to have chosen this profession till date. My professional journey has been enriching with lots of learning, unlearning, knowledge sharing, competing and challenging.
Host: While the world was going through most difficult phase during the pandemic, how did you chose to start a new firm during such a volatile period?
Sravanthi: During pandemic, there was uncertainty about survival and sustenance, we all had a lot of time to introspect. I believe a silver lining during pandemic was clients both domestic and international realised that corporate legal services can be rendered effectively and efficiently using technology. E-meetings became the go-to venue and virtual data room a repository of documents. Personally, I noticed companies which were either not doing good or needed funding were being acquired or found investors, so this prompted for corporate legal due diligence, due to volatility real estate was booming and became preferred investment, so this opened avenues for title due diligence, labour and employment laws is onset for an overhaul, so proactive clients were verifying compliance under labour laws.
I truly believed this it was the right time for me to make my deep rooted vision of providing just and fair legal services to clients into a reality. Initially, I was apprehensive, as it could be risky moving out from comfort zone and setting up firm from the starch. It meant less to no work and less to no regular income. As they say it was divine intervention, 100% support from my husband and family who encouraged me to go ahead with my dream, with this I took the leap of faith. I established IUSTUS Legal, with the grace of God (& my dad who missed seeing this phase of my life). IUSTUS means righteousness, dharma, being just and fair which is based on my vision to create value to every client in every entrusted matter. Understand client’s business needs, assess pain points and provide pragmatic legal solutions within legal frameworks. It is fulfilling when a client entrusts a matter to you and feels contented when the desired result or proper advice is provided and refers new clients or more matters.
Host: Tell us about some complex legal matters you worked on and share your learnings.
Sravanthi: It is a humongous task to pin point one matter in a span of 20 years. There were many learnings and nerve breaking instances. I would like to share two matters which gave in-depth experience (i) The State Government had planned to establish state of art convention centre with other projects to develop tourism, the integrated project was a private public partnership model. The scope of work started with series of documentation, advisory, strategy, negotiations and structuring of transaction. The work entailed series of in-depth discussions with government officials, expats and opposite counsels and coming to consensus what a humongous task. Due to many extraneous factors, this transactional matter converted into a full-fledged litigation matter which went upto the Supreme Court. On this file, I had exposure on corporate, real estate, commercial and litigation areas of practice which was truly an enriching experience and (ii) In another matter, the US government had filed a criminal indictment for embezzlement of funds. I had an opportunity to work with stalwarts as matter was highly confidential and needed interaction with a top tier US law firm at regular intervals. This matter was physically draining and mentally challenging, but the entire team was overjoyed when the matter was in favour of our client. Some matters stay with you while some fadeaway, but learnings are for a lifetime.
Both the matters are distinct, and needed application of mind to suit to specific facts and circumstances. Every matter requires to be dealt with differently and each agreement needs to be tailormade. No one size fits all. I believe in being open to learning, evolving and adapting in order to be relatable and sustainable for fairly long time in this profession.
Host: Can you let us know the areas you enjoy working and what do you envision your firm’ growth?
Sravanthi: I have had the opportunity to spearheaded projects for firm’s client by providing end to end legal services be it multinationals; I thoroughly enjoy conducting due diligence of a company as we get to see varied functional aspects be it company law, employment law, IP law, commercial law et all, which keep me updated; another area I enjoy working is conducting title due diligence, real estate law has many interwoven laws which requires careful analysis as it involves huge investments, I expanded my domain to sensitize corporates on legal aspects of prevention of sexual harassment at workplace by conducting mandatory trainings which is the need of the hour. Employment law is another niche area which I enjoy working more so the present issue on moonlighting. In my view, some organisations encourage while some dissuade as long as industry has a split view, employees take a calculated risk as it benefits them. These are few areas I enjoy. As long as an assignment or brief pertain to corporate legal field / law, except taxation, I enjoy working on it.
IUSTUS Legal is a boutique firm established to render fair legal services. The firm’s tenets are to be credible, committed and collaborate. At present, we are positioned in Hyderabad, thanks to technology we cater to clients spread across geographies. We understand the pulse and manner of functioning of legal profession and recommend structured approach, which is an added advantage. Being a young firm, we are agile and adapt to ever-changing legal and business eco-system and blend with other functions to cohesively work towards desired goal.
Host: Time is money in any profession and in legal it's most of all. How do you ensure to make the best of your time as a lawyer?
Sravanthi: Time is the most precious commodity which is non-renewable, but we need to value both time and money.
Legal profession is highly demanding. Striking a balance is a not an easy task as profession and personal life are equally important. Based on situations, I have prioritized both professional growth and personal life. In fact many women colleagues leave the profession due to familial responsibilities or lack of support post marriage. Out of 30 women students in my class of 2000 batch hardly 5 women are continuing in this profession, which is disheartening.
Coming to your question, how do I ensure best time as a lawyer, every day before I start my work, I list out my work (priority wise), when I read a matter I make my noting by hand, this helps me recollect the matter easily, avoid procrastination and keep a watch on the deadlines, in case work spills beyond expected timeline I ensure apprising clients helps in maintaining a healthy and long standing professional relationship. Most of all, understanding productive and unproductive work is very important. Most of all, I believe in time spending time with family as it rejuvenates you for a fresh start every day. I believe enriching client relationships and being updated with domain areas is also spending time productively as a lawyer.
It is a misconception that all clients propose unrealistic timelines. While this is partially true, there are some clients who are empathetic and understand that not all things can be done within 24 -48 hours TAT. It is better to be transparent and explain that matter needs time as structured approach helps us to think through and navigate systematically to reach desired result rather than jumping of the gun, there are exceptions to this rule as well. Last but not the least, delegation of work with team helps in productivity, time management and ability to focus on priority and high risks matters. This works for both professional and personal lives.
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