In conversation with Karam Daulet Singh on rebranding Touchstone Partners and Challenges thereafter

Mr Karam Daulet-Singh is a dual qualified lawyer, qualified to practise both in England and India. He worked with Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in London in the late 1990s. In 2002, he started his firm as “Daulet-Singh & Associates” in order to bridge the gap between Indian and international law firm working styles and overall client experience. It was then rebranded to Platinum Partners in 2008, which has now evolved into the firm Touchstone Partners. He extensively advises several financial institutions and multinational corporations in connection with their India strategies and has worked on some of the largest cross-border transactions in the Indian market in the last 20 years.

He has been interviewed by EBC-SCC Online Student Ambassador Dikshi Arora who is currently pursuing law from Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Punjab.

  

  1. Can you tell us something about your law school journey and take us through the early days of your profession?

I read law at Cambridge University as a first degree.  That meant I had to do my A levels, which were not offered by schools in Mumbai in the early 1990s.  Accordingly, I took a year off after school and studied privately.  It was a big risk, but it paid off in the end.  My three years at university were action packed.  I pushed myself to get the best possible academic outcomes and had it not been for a hamstring injury would even have run in the varsity match across Oxford University.  When I talk to young lawyers today who try and tell me the various initiatives they pursued at university, I often say that it is all very well, but nothing should come in the way of fulfilling your true academic potential.

 

  1. What are your primary day-to-day tasks and objectives as a Managing Partner?

I try and make sure that the team is aware of and buys into the direction the firm is driving towards; I like to keep an eye on overall client experience; the well-being of individual lawyers is also very important; and of course I am actively engaged in transactions.

 

  1. What were the challenges you faced while setting up Touchstone Partners? Take us through the decisions to part ways and to form a new entity.

Touchstone Partners is the culmination of my partners and my professional endeavours.  I think we finally have a group of lawyers across all offices who understand that cross-border transactional work charged out at a certain price and performed in a certain “style”  is all we do.  Controlling growth and remaining true to one’s focus is a huge challenge.  Parting ways is always tricky, but an honest course correction can provide a much-needed boost to momentum.

  1. How has the firm evolved since then? What does the future hold for the Delhi and Mumbai office, and for the firm as a whole? 

We have a national presence today across Mumbai, New Delhi and Bangalore.  With my moving to Mumbai, I am able to lead the firm from the heart of the business capital.  I believe that the future for every Touchstone Partners lawyer is bright.  I feel confident that the proposition we offer our clients in the cross-border context is quite unique.

  1. As a managing partner, how have you been able to manage and run your team during this pandemic? Can you share some of the hurdles you faced during this unprecedented time?

I have tried to remain as connected as possible – on a one-to-one basis – with each member of our firm.  We worked very hard during the pandemic to upgrade our technology.

 

  1. What have been some of the memorable deals for you?

Closing the BP RIL fuel retailing JV in the midst of lockdowns was challenging.  Closing some very significant transactions for Tencent and a leading GCC sovereign wealth fund validated the intactness of the India growth story.

 

  1. With increasing conversation around mental health in the legal domain, what would you suggest students and young practitioners should do to strike a work-life balance?

In my opinion, life must be lived fully across all dimensions: intellectual, emotional, physical and spiritual.  With this awareness in place, it should then not be too difficult for each of us to find an equilibrium.  More mundanely, if you find yourself in a toxic work environment that is unlikely to change, get out of it.

 

  1. What advice would you give to aspiring lawyers looking for jobs in the current climate and how to make it big in this profession?

The legal industry is going through a boom time.  In addition to sincerity and hard work, you need a lot of self-awareness, I feel, to find the most suitable job.  To make it big, you need to have the ability to control your emotions and focus on always developing yourself.

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