In conversation with Abeezar Faizullabhoy , Senior Partner at Argus Partners on set of skills required for different roles as a corporate lawyer and his view on what it means to run a corporate litigation practice post COVID-19

Mr. Abeezar E. Faizullabhoy, is currently working as a Senior Partner at Argus Partners based out of their Mumbai Office.  His practice covers Dispute Resolution, including Arbitration and Litigation and Corporate Commercial. His expertise lies in corporate and commercial litigation and also in domestic and international arbitrations. With over 26 years of experience, some of his notable assignments in this area include a multi-jurisdictional litigation covering India, Dubai, BVI and the UK; successfully arguing an ICC Arbitration in Rotterdam; advising in a family dispute both before the National Company Law Tribunal and in an arbitration; advising a religious denomination in its litigations in a multi-jurisdictional dispute in India, UK and the US to name some. 

He has been interviewed by EBC/SCC Online Student Ambassador Vivek Badkur who is currently pursuing law from NLIU. 

  1. Can you please tell us about your initial career and how you started in the field of law?

I started my career at Mulla & Mulla & Craigie Blunt & Caroe, where I first did my internship and then articled and joined thereafter as an Associate.

My joining law was accidental since I was supposed to go to the US for my MBA but as I had some time before I left, I went to Mulla & Mulla & Craigie Blunt & Caroe to spend some time and immediately realised that law was my calling.

The practice of law at an Associate level in the early 90s and now is very different both in terms of the work expected as well as the pay.

  1. Sir can you give us some insight into running one of the leading commercial litigation practices in India post COVID-19 and how has it affected client interaction and business in the field?

COVID has completely changed the practice of law although this may be temporary. From physical hearings to virtual hearings is an 180 degrees transformation. Even the manner of internally preparing, holding of conferences and briefing counsel and ultimately arguing is completely a different experience. As we limp back to normalcy, I believe that the process and procedure of pre COVID days will definitely return but virtual calls are here to stay and eventually you will have the option of doing a physical hearing or virtual hearing which is already being practiced in some courts.

The litigation practice was initially severely affected due to COVID.  However, with the number of courts having virtual hearings increasing even for non-urgent matters and some courts even having physical hearings, things are slowly but surely limping back to pre-COVID times.  Initially working virtually and getting used to the same was a different experience, but fortunately since the infrastructure was already available at Argus Partners, it was more than of a mindset issue rather than a logistical issue.

Physical client interaction has almost stopped and all client meetings and conferences are held virtually. Pre-COVID, one almost never had video conference calls with clients in the same city but that is now becoming the norm.

  1. What do you expect from an applicant to have in his resume for getting an internship or employment in your team?

The resume needs to be attractive enough to make reading a pleasure while ultimately its contents do matter. Given that the only measurement of ability of the applicant is what is mentioned in the resume, marks and internship experiences plays a very big role.

I think it is very important that during the internship, a strong enough impression is made which would make the firm more likely than not to recruit you post your graduation.

  1. Sir you have acted on the legal side, while working at leading law firms in India and also on the business side of things while you were working for a Dubai-based investor group. Can you put some light on notable differences in the skill sets that are required on either side?

On the client side, one has expectations to what you require from your lawyer, while being on the legal side you have to safeguard, anticipate and manage the expectations of your clients.

To a large extent, the difference in working on one or the other side of the table is more from a mindset and approach perspective. On the business side, the approach has to be mainly looking at the issues from a commercial perspective which the lawyer is then expected to draft in legalese in the document. While from a lawyer’s perspective, it is exceedingly important to understand the commercials, the same are normally decided by the client many a times even before the lawyers are brought on the scene. The lawyer’s main job is to stitch together a document capturing the agreed commercials and protecting the interest of the client. The lawyer is supposed to identify the risks to the client, based on which the client makes its decision including commercial ones.

  1. What are some of the things that help you in terms of law and practice while engaging as a commercial lawyer?

As a commercial lawyer, one of the most important things to bear in mind is to understand the objectives of the clients and try and provide a legal solution to the clients in achieving the same. The practice of law is no more just pointing out the legal provisions to the clients and leaving it just there. Commercial lawyers are expected to even provide commercial advice to help clients to achieve their objectives. One of the most important attributes of a great lawyer is being prepared with the facts and the law.  I believe that general knowledge of related laws also helps in providing effective solutions to clients’ problems.

  1. Sir in your illustrious career of 26 years, what is the most significant thing that your experience in the field of corporate law has taught you and which you think would help a person just starting in this field at any law firm?

The most important thing is hard work, hard work and more hard work.  Law is a very unforgiving profession and even if you are not very intelligent but are willing to burn the candle at both the ends, sky is the limit in this profession. As they say “law is 99 per cent perspiration and 1 per cent inspiration”.

  1. Sir can you tell us about the significance of legal research in the field of Corporate Litigation? Can you offer some guidance on the measures that can be used to improve upon that and your thoughts upon exhaustion of legal research?

Legal research specially of the latest applicable law is a given while preparing for any case. Every lawyer before advising a client has to have researched on the latest law both from the statute perspective and also from a case-law perspective. I would very strongly recommend that every time you answer a query for a client, re-check the law and do your research once again. Unfortunately, now a days with the pressure put on turnaround time, thorough research as it used to be done, has taken a back seat. While with the advent of technology, research has become more IT based, looking at books has become “dispensable”. In my view, technology is only an enabler and cannot provide solutions, which is where the ability and competence of the lawyer comes in. Legal solutions are tailor made and cannot be generalised and each litigation/case has its own nuances that have to be addressed on the facts and circumstances of each case.

  1. Any advice for our readers?

Law is a wonderful profession, very promising but extremely demanding. They say “law is a jealous mistress”, but I believe her demands are much more than that. In the initial years of the profession, work-life balance becomes very difficult and it is mainly just WORK, WORK and MORE WORK. Competition has increased manifold since the time I joined the profession. Having said that, I believe law has a lot to offer both in terms of inventiveness, intellectual stimulus and creativity and I wish to take this occasion to wish all the readers all the very best and success in this wonderful profession.

One comment

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    Abeezar is one of the most humane lawyer of India.
    For a litigation lawyer, his approach to the practice of law is almost non-adversarial because I guess he prepares and presents the strength of his client’s case than attack the weakness of the opposite side.

    I have worked for his father EAK Faizullabhoy who is a veteran solicitor of Mulla and Mulla and Craigie Blunt and Carore one of the oldest law firm of India as a Lawyer in charge of its New Delhi Office and thus had an opportunity to work with Abeezar as well in many cases. I always found him well prepared for any case but never interferes with the other Counsels preparation. This is his hallmark.

    Syed Naqvi
    Advocate
    Supreme Court of India
    advocatenaqvi@gmail.com

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