Gerry Riskin, co-founder of Edge International met with Bar & Bench at the LawAsia Conference. He talks about Family controlled law firms and law firm consultancy with respect to the Indian legal scenario.
Bar & Bench (B&B): What do you think is the potential of the Indian legal market and growth of law firms in India?
Gerry Riskin (GR): The future of the Indian legal market follows directly the tremendous potential of the Indian economy itself. The sophistication of India's top law firms assures their participation in the most sophisticated and complex legal matters and therefore will result in their growth and success.
B&B: Law Firm Consulting – How do you see this market evolve in India? Are law firms open to outside advisors?
GR: Top Indian law firms have wisely looked internationally for the best that the profession has to offer globally so that best practices and processes could be incorporated into their Indian practices. They are selectively receptive to high quality input and assistance.
B&B: What are the trends that you are seeing as law firms evolve themselves from family controlled to professionally managed firms?
GR: The quality of the management of select top Indian firms is unsurpassed globally. Family control should not be confused with a lack of sophistication. I have seen strategies and the ability to execute them that many top law firms around the world would be wise to emulate.
B&B: Law Firm Marketing and Brand Building in India? How do you see Indian law firms reacting to these ideas?
GR: I know first hand through the work currently undertaken by my partner in India, Juhi Garg, that select firms are eagerly embracing strategic marketing and brand building within the confines of the rules governing the conduct of Indian firms.
B&B: What is that one piece of advice you would like to give law firms in India to maintain Best Practices?
GR: I would advise those Indian firms who do not currently have robust programs underway to learn and adopt the best practices of the best managed firms around the world that they need to begin now or risk being left far behind by those Indian law firms who have been doing just this for a number of years. In every market place there is a tendency for successful firms to become complacent and adopt a false sense of entitlement. The dramatic changes affecting the legal profession globally like the introduction of legal project management will affect India as well and therefore offer competitive advantage to those firms that are prepared.
B&B: Do you think there has been a change in practice areas and administration post recession?
GR: I believe that the recession has served as a catalyst to accelerate the evolution of the management of law firms globally and the best managed Indian law firms have been no exception. The gap is widening between the firms that are sensitive to this evolution and those who underestimate its impact.
B&B: What are peculiar facts about the Indian law firm industry? How much of it is good and what needs to change?
GR: The Indian legal community is currently protected by the rules that prevent foreign law firms from establishing Indian practices. The Indian legal profession is also highly fragmented (partially because of rules that do not allow large partnerships) and therefore most lawyers are practicing alone or in tiny firms. There are many who predict that it is only a matter of time before liberalization allows the influx of foreign firms and/or the joining of foreign firms with local practices. The good news therefore is that the high demand for legal services will in the short run accrue to the benefit of the local profession. However, the tendency toward more international transactions (whether inbound or outbound) will favour those firms that can work in harmony with the most sophisticated foreign firms. Several top Indian firms are well positioned to exploit this opportunity but those firms who are not will be significantly disadvantaged.
B&B: Legal Process Outsourcing – How does Edge play a role in this booming sector and what is the potential of this sector?
GR: The potential of Legal Process Outsourcing is staggering. Edge has been monitoring and in some cases involved behind the scenes with the evolution of this key industry. Our confidence that this area will strengthen is based on the fact that sophisticated clients globally are insisting that their law firms pass on the cost-reduction benefits that accrue to those who can effectively integrate Legal Process Outsourcing into their practices. (Some of the Legal Process Outsourcing is of course accessed directly by clients without intermediary.) The bottom line is that this is a client driven phenomenon and therefore will strengthen.
B&B: Edge International is truly global with clients in over 30 countries. What is your vision for Edge in India?
GR: We closely monitor economic trends globally. It is beyond debate that India's role on the global economic stage is growing rapidly and is expected to continue to do so for some time. Education and sophistication in processes assure India an ever stronger future. India's legal profession will bifurcate into those firms that ever evolve their sophistication and those who will be shortsighted and simply take short term profits without embracing the long term. Edge has had the privilege and joy of working with some of the most progressive and sophisticated law firms in the world and we are eager to build upon the strong start we have doing the same in India.
B&B: An author, a consultant, a rainmaker. How do you manage your work-life balance?
GR: I am blessed to be doing the very work that I dreamt of as a young lawyer. With both a business degree and a law degree I was fascinated by helping law firms ever enhance their ability to satisfy clients and enjoy their practices by embracing the best business concepts. After practicing for nearly 20 years and serving as a managing partner of an international firm I sought to translate best business practices into a form that law firms could comfortably utilize. Since founding Edge nearly 30 years ago I have had the most satisfying professional life I could imagine. As for balance, I have been blessed with a wonderful family including three children now grown who are each living their own dreams with great success. When you do what you love each day, the necessary drive and energy seem to flow in abundance.