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Legal enterprise: Rohit Kochhar interview

Kochhar_Rohit-Kochhar_award_thKochhar & Co's founding partner was recently the first practising lawyer to be awarded 'young entrepreneur of the year' at the Rajiv Gandhi Awards.

We have quizzed the lawyer and businessman on his passion for enterprise and what it takes to be an entrepreneurial lawyer - apart from following your dreams.

Kochhar (pictured left) won 'young entrepreneur of the year' for starting up five different business entities after setting up the law firm Kochhar & Co.

Under the umbrella of the Kochhar Group he has founded Pinkerton India, which is a corporate investigation service in joint venture with the eponymous venerable US detective agency; Kochhar LexServe, which was the first legal process outsourcing (LPO) business set up by an Indian law firm; head hunting and recruitment company Confiar; business consultancy Kochhar Business Services; and child welfare and social enterprise the Kochhar Foundation.

Kochhar thinks that for practising lawyers one can define entrepreneurship in mainly two different ways. "One is what does the practising lawyer does in the practice of law, in that he is able to open up new vistas of legal practice and frontiers."

"The second type of entrepreneurism, which is what we've done in the Kochhar Group, is we have diversified beyond the mainstream practice of law in service segments that are distinct but very synergetic because they target the same client base."

The second type is not necessarily straightforward for lawyers, as the Bar Council of India (BCI) prohibits practising lawyers from doing business outside of the legal field.

Kochhar admits that is one of the reasons he is not actively involved in the running of his companies. "But the main reason is that I have limited time – if involved in both companies and law firm then I can not have as many professional children. I want to have many more children and would like to experiment with many new businesses and service companies and ideals."

He concedes that time pressure and his ventures do impact on his day-job of managing a law firm. "You become less perfect of a managing partner because you are not spending as much time. There is definitely a compromise – because there are many more things to do as a managing partner in the law firm world and I need to deal with that compromise."

This leads him directly on to his main secret of being a legal entrepreneur: delegation. "You find the right generals and captains with the correct skills and you have courage and the strength of character to bring in a professional family who are even better than you," he says.

Kochhar applies this equally not just in law firm management but also in his other businesses. "I have been the father and mother who's undergone the labour pain and delivered the baby," he describes but once the "child is delivered" he tries to find individuals who will take over the reigns from into "adolescence and adulthood".

He insists that it is important to give full freedom, completely emancipate business leaders and "recognise that everyone has a dream but everyone has their own expectation". While the ultimate end goal may be common, Kochhar says that all leaders should be free to pursue their own paths towards that goal.

In terms of the opportunities for young Indian lawyers, he sees a golden time ahead.

"We in India and we the Indian law firms are still undergoing metamorphosis, evolution and progression such that there is room and it is possible for young lawyers to blossom into entrepreneurs by opening up law firms."

Unlike in the US or UK legal markets. "In the western world they are really developed as far as law firms are concerned," he says, "therefore it's much more difficult and risky and costly and logistically challenging than for an Indian lawyer getting entrepreneurial in the basement of some residential building in some corner of Gurgaon, Delhi or Hyderabad."

However, he adds that there are no shortcuts. "Rome was not built in a day and they should be very persevering but they should also be patient."

But ultimately imagination is more important than knowledge argues Kochhar, quoting Albert Einstein. "I'm an absolute romantic in how much a human being should dream - I believe our dreams should be infinite."

To read more advice from Kochhar and other legal entrepreneurs who have taken the leap to set up their own law firms, check back on later this week.

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Like +0 Object -0 Annoy Moose 08 Sep 09, 15:03
Isn't it illegal for a lawyer to pursue other business interests outside the profession?
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Like +0 Object -0 rat 08 Sep 09, 20:11
Doesn't almost every top lawyer have positions on the board of companies? How is that not a business interest outside the law???
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Like +0 Object -0 Guest 10 Sep 09, 16:10
#2....bad example. Most top lawyers who sit on boards do so gratis.....they don't get paid for it (in most cases), so it's certainly not a business interest.
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Like +0 Object -0 RatTatTat 15 Sep 09, 18:27
#2 thats not true. there is no business interest for a lawyer if he or she is acting in his or her professional capacity. clearly there is a distinction between setting up a jv to provide corporate investigation service or a head hunting and recruitment company...
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Like +0 Object -0 Arcturus 15 Sep 09, 19:28
Isn't it ironical that lawyers venture into businesses other than of law (and which hardly make an impact in any real sense and are inconsequential for a lawyer) start receiving awards? If a corporate commercial lawyer (or firm) deserves an award shouldn't it be someone like the Shroffs, Zia or Ajay Behl who have done cutting edge work and set up firms which are leaders in the pack and that too by a huge margin? [...]
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Like +0 Object -0 Anonymous 16 Sep 09, 11:54
I agree...anyone can start a business. The challenge is to become a Shroff or a Zia who have reached dizzying heights with their cutting edge work and whose pay packs are unimaginable for the awardee rather than chasing awards and ET. Even smaller firms offer higher pay packs. The juniors do not have to pay for ones' commercial interests.
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