Interview: Rajesh Begur, Founder & Managing Partner at ARA LAW
Name: Mr. Rajesh Begur
Position at Firm: Founder and Managing Partner
Short Bio: Rajesh is the founder and managing partner of ARA LAW, with over 30 years of practice experience. He is recognized by his peers as a leader in the field of corporate law.
Rajesh provides counsel and representation to a broad base of domestic and international clients, spread across Asia, Australia, Europe, the Middle East, and the U.S. in the key practice areas discussed below. He is acknowledged for his extraordinary work ethic, a strong commitment to quality and his business and commercial acumen. He is trusted for safeguarding the interests of his clients. He ensures a quick turn-around time without compromising on the quality of work that his firm produces. Rajesh is pragmatic in his approach and brings the wealth of his vast legal experience to the handling of complex structuring as well as the legal, regulatory and business aspects of transactions.
Question: Describe about your Law Firm, Foundation, Partners and Work areas?
Answer: ARA LAW is a specialized law firm, which has been functioning with a focus on excellent client service for over 21 years. It was one of the first few law firms in India to recognise the need for law firms to course correct, and pay greater attention to corporate laws in the post liberalization era, which till then had been primarily litigation-driven.
In its history, ARA LAW has represented numerous Fortune 500 companies in high-stakes transactions, including advising and assisting Reliance Globalcom Limited (Global Cloud Xchange), a subsidiary of Reliance Communications, for the India leg of its global restructuring, valued at USD 350 million. The firm has also represented companies like Hutchison Whampoa, Time Warner, Larsen & Toubro, Goldman Sachs, Tata Industries and Turner in their multi-million-dollar mergers, acquisitions and divestment transactions. The firm has worked with Tiger Global, one of the largest investment funds, on a number of their investment transactions.
ARA LAW continues to function on the basis of its vision – to provide clients with seamless and faultless service, and holistic advice within the practice areas it has expertise in. With the immense focus on India as an investment destination, the industry has drawn the attention of the government, and faced significant changes in its structural and regulatory regime. The firm was thus also tasked with facing these challenges and drew upon its historic knowledge and strong CLE program to find innovative solutions to address them. Over the years, we have had the fortune of being viewed by our clients, not as legal service providers, but as trusted Partners who always look out for their best business interests.
ARA LAW has presence in 2 cities i.e. in Mumbai and Bengaluru.
Mumbai office being situated in the commercial capital of India, has exposure to all the focused practice areas such as PE & VC, M&A, Investment Funds, Banking & Finance, Real Estate and Capital Markets, whereas, Bengaluru office primarily focusses on PE & VC, M&A, Technology and Real Estate.
Rajesh is the founder and managing partner of ARA LAW, with over 30 years of practice experience. He is recognized by his peers as a leader in the field of corporate law.
Question: What skills are required in your position on a day-to-day basis?
Answer: Being in the position of a Managing Partner, one is required to inculcate multiple skills. Foremost requirement is to envision a goal for the firm and to be able to direct the firm to achieve the same. Secondly, to oversee and administer all the matters and transactions at the firm. Further, it is important to establish new relationships with the client and to manage the existing ones. Ensuring that the administrative support is carried out well and in an efficient manner is also a required skill to be able to effectively manage a law firm.
Question: What parts of your job do you find most challenging?
Answer: Having tasted and experienced varied things over a period of 30 years, one learns how to overcome challenges. However, still with the changing times and people’s mindset, it is important to mould yourself in order to meet with the expectations and commercial goals of your clients. Also, to attract and retain self-motivated and talented lawyers and support staff is also a challenge and should be the preliminary focus of any managing partner.
Question: How many hours do you work in a typical week?
Answer: On an average around 70-75 hours a week.
Question: How would you describe the corporate culture in law?
Answer: ARA LAW has always believed in and appreciated capability of its lawyers rather than the PQE. In view of that, although we have designations, we do not follow any hierarchy unlike other law firms. Any individual who has the ability to contribute to a transaction can be substantially involved in the same regardless of the PQE he/she holds. Further, a number of associates get an opportunity to work directly under the Managing Partner which is unlike other law firms wherein a particular assignment gets filtered down through the designation.
Question: Is this field growing enough so that there’s room for someone who is a first-generation lawyer?
Answer: I, being a first-generation lawyer, can completely relate to the initial challenges that a first-generation lawyer has to face. Firstly, creating a face value and credibility amongst your clients and peers is a difficult task that is to be achieved and a first-generation lawyer who does not inherit such face value from his/her predecessors, has to walk an extra mile to achieve the same.
Secondly, considering the prevailing cut-throat competition in the legal market where every lawyer is trying to undercut the other in order to attract and retain clients, it becomes very difficult for the one without an established brand name to make profits during the initial years.
Question: This industry has changed dramatically in the past years. What are your experience from inside your company? Where do you think the changes will happen in the next five years?
Answer: Corporate law firms are always directly connected with the global market and any fluctuation in global economy also impacts revenues of such law firms. ARA LAW being a specialized law firm having primary focus on PE, VC & M&A transactions is no exception to such rule. As compared to the scenario vis-à-vis the transactions during 2014, 2015 and 2016, 2017 has been a slow year. There are several reasons which have contributed to the same, such as (a) Brexit; (b) Change of the US government; (c) Demonetization; (d) GST; (e) GAAR; (f) POEM etc. The demonetization drive in India overflew the Indian market with domestic capital, due to which the Indian companies became reluctant to infuse foreign capital. Further, the valuations of the companies in India have become high that investors are not willing to invest in the Indian market. However, market has started to pick up and in coming 2-3 months we are expecting to see some stability in terms of transactions in India.
We have set our eyes on the PE, VC & M&A practice and the Investment Funds practice. As much as these practices go hand in hand and work in a cycle – there does not seem to be a slowdown in these practices for the coming year at least. The drivers behind the growth of these practices are fuelled by the simple economic fundamental of demand and supply.
Question: What educational preparation would you recommend for someone who wants to advance in this field?
Answer: In addition to the LLB program, it is advisable to obtain extra knowledge about the subjects relevant to the practice areas, that one has his/her focus on, such a knowledge of tax, securities law, business laws etc. Many universities offer short term courses in these fields. Also, additional courses such as company secretary, chartered account and an MBA always help.
Question: What qualifications do you seek in a new hire?
Answer: At ARA LAW, we take investment in our people very seriously. We are always on the look for legal professionals with Intelligence, Energy and Integrity. Primarily, a fresher or a new hire should be dedicated, responsible, hardworking and self-driven. He/she should be able to follow “Think Out of the Box” and “Attention to Detail” approaches and to be continuously and consistently involved in knowledge management activities. Associates are also expected to be good team players and to have the ability to provide quality assistance and support to seniors on complex legal issues.
Question: Taking into account a candidate’s skills, education and experience, what other career paths would you suggest for young law students to explore before making a final decision?
Answer: All the young law students should explore all the practice areas in order to be sure about their interest.
Question: Your feedback for Legal Desire Website (www.legaldesire.com):
Answer: www.legaldesire.com is a well designed and helpful website. The website is a useful tool for all lawyers.
Interviewed by: Anuj Kumar, Founder & Editor-in-Chief, Legal Desire
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