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Interview Of The Month  

This month, India Law Journalís Founder Dirctor, Vikrant Pachnanda spoke to Mr. Diljeet Titus, Managing Partner, Titus & Co and discussed with him his views on various topical issues which are being currently being debated about in the legal services sector in India.

Ques: Recently the Bar Council of India informed the Supreme Court that it had relaxed its rules and has now decided to allow advertising their services on the internet keeping in view, the changing global scenario. What are your views on this and do you think that is high time that legal advertisements should now be allowed in all forms?

Ans:Yes, it is the right step taken by the Bar Council though this has come very late and should have come much earlier. However again, in the case of V.B. Joshi v. Union of India, where this amendment was made in Rule 36, Section IV, only 5 pieces of information can be advertised on the internet i.e. (1) name of the firm, (2) address, telephone numbers and email id, (3) (a) enrollment number, (b) date of enrollment, (c) name of State Bar Council where originally enrolled, (d) name of the State Bar Council on whose roll name stands currently and (e) name of the Bar Association of which the advocate is a member, (4) professional qualifications and academic qualifications and (5) areas of practice.

For the past 15 years, Indian law firms have been advertising non-exclusively beyond what the law currently allows you to do. Bar Directories on the lines of the Asialaw In-house profiles should be allowed. Thus it is high time, that legal advertisements be allowed in all forms which help to facilitate clients in a better way and more efficient way. Legal advertisements are not advertisements but merely act as a source of information to assist the common man so that he knows what legal assistance he can be offered in different circumstances. But again, it is very important for law firms to keep in mind that while advertising, they should advertise only what they offer and not what they can offer.

Ques: As one of India's fastest growing law firms, how do you continue to attract and retain lawyers in the legal market?

Ans:Hiring lawyers at Titus & Co. is a very stringent process which involves a written test followed by 3 interviews testing the applicantís drafting, analytical and technical skills. The per lawyer productivity at Titus is one of the highest in the country and what work 27 lawyers at our firm can do is done by almost double the amount of lawyers in other law firms. There is a lot of efficiency when it comes to client billings and recovering the same. We have a strategic non-exclusive alliance with two US law firms as well as an Italian law firm which has widely been reported.

Due to this alliance with the US law firms, I am one of the only two lawyers who are members of the Indo-US business council. So the this alliance enables our associates to get good training exposure and we also send a few associates each year on a secondament to these law firms and this is reciprocal for a particular time period in order to give them international exposure to effectively deal with our clients, 98% of whom are from outside India. We have also heavily invested in client management software and a very resourceful library.

We are the only Indian law firm to be certified with a 2 star exports trading house by the Ministry of Commerce. We are not a partnership firm but a sole proprietorship and so there are no equity partners in the firm. Regarding retaining associates, any associate who brings in a client gets 20% of the gross billings of each invoice. An associate also gets 20-50% of the entire billing of a client. This is applicable to all associates other than associates who are in their first year after joining the firm. Thus everyone wants to get work keeping in mind these incentives provided by the firm. Thus as you keep getting senior, your share in the billing invoice of a client increases from 20% to 30%, 40% and then 50%.

After 7 years of working in the firm, an associate is entitled to a certain percentage of the firmís revenue. In addition, associates also get a 30 days paid holiday, free 7 day 5 star hotel stay and a retreat for rebuilding the team every 6 months once they join the firm every year. We also have a Titus & Co. cricket team which is currently competing in a 20-20 cricket competition organized by SILF where our team is doing very well. Thus this has built a great sense of team spirit amongst our associates which is very essential when you have to work as a team and be successful.

Ques: If the Indian legal sector opens its doors to foreign law firms, where would you look to position yourself?

Ans:As mentioned earlier, we have a strategic non-exclusive alliance with two US law firms as well as an Italian law firm. Hence, we do not need to worry about the competition even when foreign law firms will be allowed to enter India. Our focus is primarily outside the country since that is from where most of our clients are.

Ques: How do you see yourself in the market during the current recession in terms of work being undertaken by the firm?

Ans:Well yes, while there has been an increase in our work related to major disputes arising out of companies, increase in arbitrations, more restructuring, assets being sold, employees being fired and franchise agreements being terminated, on the other hand, the amount of capital market, private equity and M&A deals have become less. But this is a concern for those firms who only specialize in capital markets or private equity.

Ques: India is perceived to have a difficult legal system. What do you think is the greatest challenge that an overseas corporation which is doing business in India faces?

The biggest challenge which not only an overseas cooperation but even an Indian company faces is red tapism. There is a lot of corruption, multiple licenses and approvals required, lots of time taken to grant approvals, unnecessary interventions .etc. In my opinion, there should be more education imparted at the grassroot level which is necessary to not if curb but reduce the same.

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