"We understand the trust reposed in us when we work in the role of legal advisors. We commit ourselves to reciprocate through the assumption of full responsibility," .Archana Balasubramanian, Partner, Agama Law Associates
Over the years, there has been a significant tectonic shift in the legal world that previously revolved around counsels and solicitors, who now have become a trivial part of the whole ecosystem. Specialisation has become the norm while law graduates have a vast array of role choices and clients have a laundry list of new and renowned firms along with the practice areas of such firms.
One such young law firm, a tough combatant to the big firms is Agama Law Associates, a boutique commercial law practice offering end-to-end corporate and commercial legal solutions to Indian and for businesses and private clients.
Incepted in 2013, named Agama that represents a trustworthy source of knowledge, a law firm was conceived when group of friends visualized what they want to see in their organisations. Amidst these friends was visionary Archana Balasubramanian who saw a chance to exploit a huge market by using her expertise in M&A, capital markets, along with sector experience more fruitfully and provide practical legal solutions to smaller organisations.
With foundation stones of knowledge, faith, integrity and trust, Agama has grown from advising its first client on restructuring their business contracts to over 200 clients today with a notable service portfolio. Seven years later, the brand offers setting up of businesses, business transactions, commercial documentation including property documentation, mergers and acquisitions (M&A), corporate advisory, (listed and unlisted) statutory and regulatory compliance, foreign exchange law advisory, international and domestic arbitration, disputes (including dispute avoidance), and dispute management.
"Agama focuses on providing commercially sound and pragmatic legal advice while cutting out legal "noise" as well as ensuring regulatory and statutory compliance. We endeavour to create a platform for the most effective and efficient delivery of quality legal services for all sectors," shared Nitin Jain, Partner, Agama Law Associates.
Spearheading alongside Archana Balasubramanian, Nitin Jain, in the role of Partner, is instrumental in the process of achieving the goal of being a firm of choice for clients with regards to all the legal needs irrespective of the nature, complexities or dimensions of the matter.
Backed with all rounded experience covering the entire spectrum of matters in the corporate commercial arena and expansive career experience, both the Partners propels Agama to fulfil the legal advisory role as a legal partner in the business strategy being at the heart at achieving pragmatic legal solutions.
The Agama team of experienced professionals are ingrained to have a client-centric approach and in-depth understanding of practical eco-politico-legal issues faced by the clients focusing on efficient and effective service delivery.
Appreciated by clients' time and again for their swift, proactive and agile response at all times while keeping the solutions within the four corners of the law, the team is guided by senior resources who take a leadership role. They often drive end-to-end all commercial legal requirements of the client whether it is in the field of compliance, transactional, advisory or disputes.
The team focuses on areas of practice that is inclusive of mergers and acquisitions, commercial transactions and advisory, dispute resolution and pre-dispute advisory and capital markets. Agama team's experience ranges from consumer to industrial sectors viz. energy – including renewable energy, FMCG, food and beverages, healthcare and pharma, infrastructure, logistics, real estate, and retail sector.
The very nature of a start-up delivering professional services indicates the biggest challenge of capital. While the law is a profession that requires one to be non-partisan and remains unconflicted, the entire operations Agama Law Firm, in the initial days, were funded through internal accruals. Early on, into their entrepreneurial venture, the team invested in technology to overcome the real estate issues in a place like Mumbai so that associates were never compelled to travel to the office. Over the years, the firm overcame the challenge of hiring and retaining lawyers and achieved stability.
Agama professionalised the process and has a three-stage process for hiring a resource. They also offer training to fresh graduates. They have also successfully supplemented the team when required from a vast pool of external consultants. Last but not the least, balancing between low costs and adequate infrastructure for delivery which they create by offering multiple pricing options going away from traditional billing norms and complete transparency as to costs to be incurred by the clients. This includes informing clients about costs vis-à-vis external consultants as well.
The experts at Agama Law Firm, switch between two key hats and work in the role of an in-house team, coordinating and holding ownership of the documents for execution and for presentation to the board, etc or experts who augment the existing legal team and provide the advisory or turning around documents, the research that is required.
Adding value, in an amorphous and ever-evolving role, to large listed corporations, most corporates of different ages, sizes and sectors, the sector-agnostic firm delivers value in every area they believe they really could.
While technology is well knitted in the operations of a law firm from drafting, internal discussions, tracking of tasks for complex matters like M&A transactions, billing (most important), to payments to associates and third parties; its absence could have created havoc during COVID-19 pandemic.
Agama Law Associates firm has always been founded on the premise of "work from anywhere". Over the years, they have slowly built-in necessary tech tools (most of the commonly available) and infused them into their daily lives. This same thought process percolates to the lowest rung of the organisation.
During the times of pandemic, they have learned the key lessons of the importance of making hardware (internet connection and other necessary work from home essentials) available. But the biggest learning curve was optimal utilization of video conferencing facilities in both the internal and external communications of the firm. While technology is yet to make tasks with required physical presence seamless.
In a nutshell, while the legal fraternity has the necessary infrastructure to work from anywhere and we have seen through many arbitrations, urgent hearings in various courts and tribunals including NCLT that the idea is beginning to catch up. The best part is the savings for the client – lawyers' fees for travel to a different city is eliminated.
"The status of law firms and partners personally is an ever-shifting goal post. At first, our thought process was aimed to be seen as experts in our field of corporate law, foreign exchange laws, and M&A. As Nitin joined, we slightly shifted that goal post to a boutique commercial firm offering corporate, transactional as well as dispute resolution to clients," shared Archana
She further shared, "Personally for us, being generalists in the past and having wide experience in different gamuts of the law, we are keen on being "the essential lawyer" for businesses rather than specialist surgeons so to speak. In 5 years, we aim to replicate this generalist approach across all our associates and have double the number of people servicing three times our current clientele."
Quality is the core value system at Agama. It is percolated down to the last trainee and office staff. Whether it is litigation drafting or negotiation of contracts, detailed preparation is insisted upon, constant interface with clients, and closing the loop post completion of milestones is a necessary step.
To ensure clients holistic assistance, Agama travels a mile ahead and offers more than their valuable legal advice. They recognise and communicate issues which will hinder the client from achieving their objectives and confirm that clients receive value for money. Agama is equipped with internal mechanisms for ensuring constant updating of laws, associates trained to take responsibility, and partners who hold themselves accountable for all legal advice and professional services rendered. Between this responsibility and accountability, the client is fully protected.
"In this ever-changing landscape, we believe that newer outfits like us are better positioned to deliver value. We have a vast network which empowers clients with a choice in service delivery of quality of a well-known/top tier firm. Younger firms can quickly adapt to the changing environment and align to clients' needs – whether it is dealing with a new law or an additional requirement of the client. Change is the only constant and we, at Agama are constantly changing while keeping our underlying value systems the same."