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BG counsel Smriti Subramanian joins Vaidyanathan’s Advaya: targets Pune & Delhi this year

Subramanian: Aims to offer different expertise
Subramanian: Aims to offer different expertise
Exclusive: Advaya Legal, the two-and-a-half-year-old firm started by former GVK in-houser Ramesh Vaidyanathan, has hired its third partner with ex-BG in-house counsel Smriti Subramanian, as the firm hopes to spread its footprint beyond Mumbai.

Subramanian, who graduated from NLSIU Bangalore in 2001, has worked in-house at ITC and as a senior associate at Economic Laws Practice until 2007 before joining BG Exploration and Production India – the local subsidiary of the UK gas major BG.

On Friday she joined Advaya as a partner and would focus on scaling up the infrastructure, energy and natural resources practice of the start-up firm.

“I like Advaya because it is a very small team and open to ideas,” Subramanian said. “My own take on established law firms is, their structures are very firm and the ways they do business are almost cast in stone – very partner-led and very little space for doing your creative bit.”

“[Advaya] is a small firm but it has visions in growing,” she added. “We’re trying to attach ourselves to a niche space with a very focused set of skills. We do understand the challenges of being a small firm but the strength we will have going forward is having client perspective on board – that’s primarily a differentiator I bring on the table presently: I know what they [clients] are missing.” 

She explained that established Indian law firms mostly focused on the M&A, investment or financing side, but not many were doing the bulk of project contracts, or engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contracts or regulatory work.

At BG therefore, she never outsourced such work to law firms, said Subramanian, perhaps because domestic law firms just hadn’t developed that kind of expertise yet unlike abroad.

Vaidyanathan commented: “For us it’s important because typically you would not find these big multinational in-house counsel moving out to join start-ups, so I think it’s quite exciting. We are now in that stage where we are going to expand in a big way and get some more activity in the market.”

He said that he was “quite confident” that Advaya would open an office in Pune, followed by Delhi in the next seven months. Pune was attractive because a lot of the firm’s German clients were based there.

Advaya was also looking for new Mumbai headquarters, after having grown to three partners and 10 associates, explained Vaidyanathan, with Meenakshi Iyer having joined two years ago as the litigation partner, although corporate partner Ashish Bhakta, who had joined from ARA Law in 2011, left to join a law firm in the UK.

Vaidyanathan said that the partners had “assured contractual commitments” that Advaya would be converted into a full equity partnership in future.

Vaidyanathan said that infrastructure work now contributed around 20 per cent of the firm’s revenue, as did intellectual property, information technology and ecommerce. Corporate and commercial, and aviation work also made up approximately one fifth each, while media-law related work brought in around 5 per cent of revenues.

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