Bithika Anand is a pioneer in applying management concepts to law firms in India. In this interview with Asia Law Portal, she explains her central role in the adoption of sophisticated management practices to Indian law firms, the current state of legal marketing and business development for law firms in India. How the prospect of market liberalization became a catalyst for change. And what she hopes to accomplish in the future.
What is Legal League Consulting (LLC) and Human Elevation (HE), and Edge International, and what is your role within them?
Legal League Consulting (LLC) is India’s first management consulting company that brought the concept of law firm management to the fore in India. We were the first ones in the country to have ventured into applying management concepts to law firms, an idea that was prevalent internationally and was at its nascent stages in 2010, when I established LLC. Today, we have made significant contributions to the advancement of the legal profession within India and internationally. LLC works with law firms to give them strategic direction and implementation support, with a single-point agenda of helping them grow. In a sector that was largely run on the instinct and individual management style of founders, I started the trend of professionally run and managed law firms.
Human Elevation (HE) is a global talent search organization providing comprehensive talent solutions to corporates across all sectors, with special expertise in catering to talent requirements of the legal sector, comprising of corporate legal departments and law firms across India and abroad. I established HE in 2017 with the belief that recruitment plays an important role in shaping an organization’s vision and skilled human talent catalyzes the commercial endeavors of entities.
Edge International is a global consultancy specializing in the legal and other professional services sectors, driven to ensure implementation and positive results for its clients. Founded in 1983, Edge International provides consulting and advisory services worldwide to clients ranging from large global law firms to small boutiques, accounting firms, corporate legal departments, and many other professional service firms.
As regards my role, I am the Founder and CEO of both Legal League Consulting & Human Elevation. Actively managing and running both companies operating in a niche sector, I also play the role of a coach and advisor in the legal ecosystem, inspiring and encouraging organizations to grow to their true potential through management solutions and advisory on talent acquisition. As regards Edge International, I am the Principal (India) since 2011, advising on India-specific growth and business initiatives.
What led you to a career in consulting in the legal sector and what is your previous experience in law prior to your current work?
Before founding Legal League Consulting, I played a pivotal role in assisting erstwhile Amarchand Mangaldas & Suresh a Shroff & Co., India’s largest law firm at that time (before it split into two different firms), to grow from strength to strength. During my 11-year stint at the firm, first as the Chief Financial Officer (CFO), and then in a dual role as both Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and Chief Operating Officer (COO), the firm grew from a lawyer strength of 25 to over 500. During this period, the firm implemented modern management processes, compliant with the best practices in the world. Prior to this, I worked at S.B. Billimoria & Co. and KPMG, both leading accountancy firms, for over 10 years, conducting a variety of internal and statutory audits for major national and multi-national companies and formulating strategic business plans, expansion plans, and India entry strategies.
Having spent well over a decade at Amarchand and having implemented everything I believed was necessary at the time, I felt that I had reached a point of intellectual saturation. As I began to interact with global management consultants, I discovered a concept that was exclusively dedicated to the legal industry and was immediately captivated. With my experience in managing the country’s leading law firm, I was eager to replicate its success model for other firms that were getting ready to embrace management solutions. My post-graduate diploma in legal practice management from Nottingham Trent University further fueled my passion for pursuing a career in management consulting for the legal sector. At that time, there were no management consultants exclusively dedicated to the legal fraternity in India, and I saw this as a unique opportunity to make a difference.
What is the current state of the Indian legal profession in terms of adoption of advanced marketing, business development, technology and law practice management?
When Legal League Consulting was founded by me in 2010, the legal sector in India was yet to completely embrace the idea of professionalized management for law firms. Founders and managing partners typically managed their firms using their own unique management styles and relied on traditional methods of acquiring and retaining clients such as referrals from existing clients and professional networks. Today, however, the legal industry has evolved significantly and has started to embrace more sophisticated and technology-driven solutions. This shift can be attributed in part to the growing awareness created by global trends, and also to the contributions made by consultants like Legal League Consulting. Not only large law firms but also mid-sized and growing firms have begun to deploy professionals and use tech-based solutions to streamline operations and improve efficiency. While solicitation of clients through cold-calling and other means is prohibited for lawyers in India, building a strong brand and attracting potential clients through knowledge dissemination and relationship building has become a key focus for many firms.
The Indian legal sector has undergone a remarkable transformation in recent years. Although traditional methods of client acquisition and retention, like referrals and personal visits, are still relevant, the industry is now prioritizing digital marketing and building a strong brand through thought leadership and relationship building. This shift is helping law firms of all sizes to modernize their operations and become more efficient and effective in serving their clients. As the legal industry continues to evolve and adapt to changing global trends, it’s vital for law firms to adopt innovative solutions that enable them to stay ahead of the curve and work hand-in-hand with their global counterparts. With the increasing use of technology and advanced marketing techniques, the Indian legal sector is poised for an exciting future, and the potential for growth and innovation is limitless.
What are your thoughts about the liberalization of India’s legal market?
In my view, liberalization has proven to be a powerful catalyst in creating dynamic and efficient markets across different sectors. This is because it promotes competition, drives innovation, improves efficiency, and positively affects pricing, ultimately benefiting end-users or clients. The previous liberalization efforts in India have played a significant role in boosting economic growth and generating employment. Thus, if and when India’s legal market undergoes liberalization, it could have a similar effect by opening up Indian law firms to sophisticated technologies, expertise, and global best practices that could enable them to deliver superior legal services.
By liberalizing the legal sector, Indian law firms could have the opportunity to collaborate with foreign firms and tap into global expertise, thereby expanding their reach and enhancing their overall quality of service. However, it is important to recognize that the liberalization of India’s legal market is a complex issue that demands careful consideration and planning. While it could bring significant benefits, the concerns of all stakeholders must be addressed, especially in light of the potential displacement of domestic law firms and the risk of a loss of opportunities for Indian lawyers.
It is also important to note that a majority of law firms and lawyers in India, especially those in rural and interior parts of the country, may not be fully aligned with foreign law firms and may continue to operate in a more traditional and conservative manner. Therefore, any liberalization of the legal sector must be implemented in a way that safeguards the interests of all stakeholders and promotes a fair and competitive market for legal services.
What are your goals for your professional future over the next decade?
As a Founder of two distinguished companies, namely, Legal League Consulting (LLC) and Human Elevation (HE), we are renowned for our highly specialized areas of expertise. Pioneering the market with our exceptional service, we stay committed to a culture of unrelenting innovation and adaptability. Our agility in responding to change and innovation will continue to be our hallmark. We remain dedicated and committed to ensuring that we add value to clients by constantly addressing the shifting dynamics and requirements within the sector. Having served over 500 clients, ours is a bespoke approach – crafted with skills and sharpened by experience. We pride ourselves on delivering custom-made management solutions that cater to the specific needs of each client, a stark contrast to the one-size-fits-all service approach. Even on the recruitment side, our process is similarly bespoke. We give emphasis on evaluating not just the profile of potential candidates, but also their aptness for the role, and compatibility with the client’s organizational culture and values.
On a personal level, I believe in the importance of modernization and innovation to keep pace with the rapidly evolving business environment, especially with the rise of technology and globalization. In addition, I’m passionate about promoting diversity and inclusion in hiring and promotion practices within the profession. I also love working with and mentoring the next generation of legal professionals, helping them embrace change and innovation in their practices. My ultimate goal is to empower and inspire lawyers and law firms to be agents of positive change in society. I want to bring more collaboration to the legal sector by establishing a forum that brings together all members of the legal fraternity, including practicing lawyers, law firms, managing partners, founders, judges, senior designated counsels, general counsels, service providers to the legal sector, and even law students. This common platform will facilitate greater dialogue and collaboration among legal professionals, which can ultimately benefit the sector as a whole.
Where can clients and referral sources contact you?
I am reachable on my email IDs firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. Additionally, clients and referral sources can contact me through my LinkedIn profile which can be found at https://www.linkedin.com/in/bithikaanand/.