Bahram N. Vakil co-founded AZB & Partners along with co-founders Ajay Bahl and Zia Mody in 2004. Vakil, who has over 38 years of experience, is a banking, bankruptcy, restructuring, infrastructure and project finance lawyer. He acts for several distressed funds, insolvency professionals, domestic and international banks and financial institutions.
Considered as one of the leading restructuring, and banking and finance lawyers in the country, Vakil has been on several government constituted committees including the recent Viswanathan Committee on Bankruptcy law reform. He also played a key role in drafting the Bankruptcy Code which was recently passed by the Parliament.
ALB: What have been some of your highlights from your time in charge? And what are some leadership lessons you have learnt?
Vakil: I feel very blessed to have been a part of the AZB journey. I think one of the highlights was the speed at which we grew initially from just a few lawyers to a large firm in a matter of three to four years. The camaraderie of a small firm is something I will always miss and Zia, Ajay and myself try very hard to keep that personal culture even though it becomes increasingly difficult as you grow. The lesson we have learnt is always lead with both the head and heart.
ALB: How would you describe your strategy for the firm?
Vakil: AZB is more focussed on quality than size. We will continue to grow as much as is enough to meet our clients’ demands while ensuring that our quality is maintained. Our strategy is to be the best in class across our practice areas and to support our lawyers in every way to enable them to give our clients the top-quality advice and service they expect.
ALB: What are some of the big challenges the firm has been facing in the past few months, and how are you looking to tackle them?
Vakil: Like organisations across the world, the last year has been extremely difficult but our technology and administrative teams have really outshone. Of course, our lawyers too have made the best of the difficult situation and we have managed to work uninterrupted during the entire period, even though it is, of course, essentially “work from home.” Apart from the personal challenges faced by all of us, the two big professional challenges have been maintaining training and mentoring for our junior lawyers (especially the new entrants) and staying in close touch with our clients.
ALB: How important is law firm culture, according to you? What kind of internal culture are you looking to foster?
Vakil: Culture is crucial. The internal culture we strive to foster is a mix of high work product, strong motivation and work ethics together with a collegial and flat/friendly work environment. However bright and accomplished an individual may be, we prefer not to have solo, super stars but rather team players.
ALB: On that note, how would you describe your hiring and talent retention strategy? What kinds of lawyers would make the best fit for your firm?
Vakil: To my mind, this is the crux of the firm – hiring the right talent and more importantly retaining them. After all, in a law firm, like most professional firms, you are as good as your junior most lawyers and human talent is our only asset. We feel fortunate to be able to attract the best, which enables us to hire the best, but retention is a continuous process especially given the mobility of the younger generation.
ALB: What motto do you live by?
Vakil: The motto I live by is to combine passion with compassion in all we do both in our personal and professional lives.
ALB Conversations is a weekly series of in-depth Q&As with leaders of law firms and in-house legal departments across Asia. If you are a managing partner or general counsel based in the region who is interested in being a part of this series, please send an email to email@example.com.