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LexTalk World Talk Show with Ratnam Usha Saraniya, Attorney at Law



In 2016, She attained the LLB Degree from the University of London, following this she pursued becoming an Attorney-at-Law and hence attempted and secured good grades on the examination which was the primitive step in fulfilling a decade-long aspiration in law. Soon after, She landed an apprenticeship with DL&F De Saram. Post to taking the oath as an Attorney-at-Law of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka in September 2018, She was offered an opportunity to work on a project with regard to prisoner’s studies with the Human Rights Commission, Sri Lanka for a period of 3 months. Post to the completion of her contract with the Human Rights Commission, She pursued her professional tenure in the capacity of a junior legal Associate at John Wilson Partners, a highly reputed law outfit in Sri Lanka known for managing top multinationals operating in the country.


Working at John Wilson Partners paved her exposure to deal with all pivotal areas of law, especially those pertaining to corporate law, Family Law, Foreign investment, Litigation matters, Immigration law, property, and conveyancing under the supervision of the Managing Director and senior partner, Mr. John Wilson.


After an Exceptional tenure at John Wilson Partners, She was offered a Senior role by Asia Capital PLC, A Debit and Equity investment Group that was managing sizable investment portfolios in the country and from overseas investors. The role allowed her a valiant opportunity to operationalize legal and compliance frameworks at a Listed group of Companies setup. she was involved with legal operations affiliated with Company Secretaries, Corporate financial research, Legal drafting, Compliance, and stock brokerage-related works at Asia Capital PLC, and its subsidiaries.


After an exceptional few years with Asia Capital, She is now Heading the legal team of Altura Consultants (Pvt) Ltd which is a legal consulting firm based out of Sri Lanka catering to foreign personnel and corporates to move their legal matters in Sri Lanka, such as Foreign Investments, Corporate registration and documentation, Foreign adoption, Regulating Export procedures and compliance, Real Estate and other property matters, Immigration and Emigration and citizenship related services. Further, She is a Sri Lankan qualified Commissioner of Oaths, Company Secretary, and a Notary Public.


Her last role is where I have taken a decision to get exposure in are for foreign migration law which has opened up doors at Oxbridge associates is Australian-based law firm that specializes in Australian Immigration and Emigration and citizenship-related services. She is currently in the capacity of a Legal Officer at Oxbridge which has equipped her immensely with this tacit knowledge of Australian immigration law and I look forward to becoming a subject expert on this during my time here.


Interview


Host: Tell us about a complex legal issue you worked on. Describe the complexity and tell us how you approached it.


Usha: I have been fortunate enough to manage from domestic into depths of corporate quarters in legal matters in my career and while corporate matters are heavily compliance driven and time constricted, domestic matters are quite sensitive, and morality driven. If I am to state a challenging domestic matter, it would an Abduction case; A child was reportedly abducted by her mother, while her divorce procedure was at the courts. Mother was of Sri Lankan Origin, and she had taken child to Sri Lanka. Father, who was our client, was of foreign origin, approached us to find the abducted child. Within a very confined period, we submitted the relevant application to the Ministry of Justice and closely monitored the case to make sure that the mother will not take the baby to another country out of Sri Lankan jurisdiction. However, when mother knew that legal charges have been pressed against her act, she decided to return the child and I was able to retrieve the child and reunite her back with her father.


Another gripping case I handled was of an Adoption, in the Sri Lankan legal context pertaining to Adoption, adopting parents cannot choose the child. A child will be matched with the parents according to the child probation authority’s discretion. The client I represented had a sister who was proven to be mentally unstable, and her husband was an alcoholic. The couple’s child was reportedly not being taken care of in terms of parental love and necessities. So, my client who is residing abroad wanted like to adopt the child in order provide the child with a better life. But the adoption framework had inhibited such preferable child adoption, I took this case as an exceptional appealwith the Commissioner of Department of Child probation and finally was successful in obtaining their approval for this adoption, this was quite a significant appeal in the history of Child adoption stature in Sri Lanka.


Equally challenging facet in corporate context is legal Due diligence for Merger and Acquisition and to add to the complexity the assignment must be completed within a very short span of time (2 weeks), This was an instance where a multi-national corporation had shown keenness in acquisition of a local entity based in Sri Lanka. Whilst we had to carry out a thorough legal due diligence, we also had a shorter span. I led a team of 4 lawyers for a period of two weeks to complete the due diligence. Completing a Due Diligence of a multinational company within a short period.


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?


Usha: As a lawyer my value is in the amount of sizeable time I spent on cases and even my billing on certain assignment is based on a per Hour charges. hence if I’m to bill my clients on the time I spent then the work ethic that I need to be put into each minute is very critical. I make sure that each case matter is dissected in a way that when I’m furnishing my advice I could see where the case sits in based on its complexity, its current stance, opposition strongholds and many more criteria. With years of case analysis have been able to arrive at this case layout which makes it easier for me to direct a case and place each of its aspect on to different quadrants. This methodology saves a lot of time and is quite efficient when you across multiple cases.


Host: In the era of legal technology, what are the most commonly used tools for you?


Usha: Legal vertical has undergone rapid transformation and ideally it had to due to immense manual and time-consuming aspects tied to it. As we speak next generation technology such asArtificial intelligence and blockchain technology are transforminghow legal services are offered and accessed.Whilst I work with limited human resources Technology has always been my wingman in efficiently driving my legal practice.


Let me spell out few software suit I sue in my practice, whilst all of these solutions may or may not be suitable but all of them tailor a different element into your practice.


A key suit that I sue on day-to-day basis is aDrafting software, for me a good amount of time is spent on drafting, proofreading, and editing documents. Drafting software streamlines the process. I have picked few add on features in the suite such as proofreading, citation validation, and a feature to customize and update authority tables and all of these are highly valiant features which you can opt for.


Another a must have solution in your stack is a Document management software. Being a lawyer, you would have pile of documents stacked up in e formats in folders and locating them when in need is a tiresome task. You could store documents in the cloud, and annotate, share, and even collaborate with clients when their feedback or comments are required. I would say the features such as Versioning of documents, automated file synchronising, Auto indexing, sharing rights are critical in the suite. Lately, there are built in AI functions in these applications to search and extract information from documents as well which will save you a lot of time.


And the last suite that I would personally recommend to anyone in legal practice would be a Time-tracking or task management software, you could trace the amount of time you spent on each case activity hence once you compile the tasks together you would be able to arrive at the billable hours.


Host: Being a legal counsel of the modern era, how do you make legal service delivery more accessible in your practice?

Usha: Being a counsel born out of the Millennial era, I believe the legal service delivery must evolve, conform to the new technology and the new ecosystem. Technology leads, and the law follows. It’s never the other way around. This would transform how services are accessed and delivered in the legal vertical. when everything in this world can be delivered in one touch then why legal service should be. In my practice I incorporate technology from areas such video conferencing and document collaboration which work in tandem to deliver a seamless service experience to my clients.


Host: Which area of practice would you call it as your area of core competence?


Usha: My signature areas would Immigration and Migration law of Democratic Republic of Sri Lanka which spans from personal consultancies to commercial fronts leading into Foreign Direct investment and its affiliated regulations. Whilst the ongoing crisis in Sri Lanka which positively infiltrated many nationals to make investment in property is an apt area that I have recently incorporated into my line of consultancy as well, And I have established a property consulting practice within my firm to tailor an end to end solutions to my clientele.

 

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