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New AZB Mumbai COO: Ex-NLS-CAM lawyer-manager Eshan Sharma to make ‘very happy working place’ & more

Eshan Sharma joins AZB as COO with wide remit that includes not just happiness
Eshan Sharma joins AZB as COO with wide remit that includes not just happiness

Legal technology consultant and (Cyril) Amarchand alumnus Eshan Sharma, has joined AZB & Partners on 2 April as its chief operating officer (COO).

Sharma is a 2011 NLSIU Bangalore graduate who had begun his career as a lawyer with erstwhile Amarchand Mangaldas in 2011.

He commented: “From my own experience, lawyers’ requirements are very peculiar in nature when it comes to professional services organisations itself. I knew these pain points when I was a lawyer, and when I made the jump to the entire management side of things, it’s really helpful to understand.

“I could speak their language.”

In 2014, Sharma had moved to Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas’ so-called managing partners office in a strategy and business development role. In November 2016, he had moved to legal consultancy Rainmaker as head of technology and products, while also working as an independent legal technology consultant according to his Linked-in profile.

In a joint phone interview with Mumbai managing partner Zia Mody - who has famously always been more hands-on than most about law firm management - he joked that his role was also “to make Zia’s life happier”.

“No, I don’t care about that,” Mody promptly quipped in return.

So would Sharma’s joining mean that well-known night-owl Mody would not be sending out 3am management-related emails to lawyers anymore? “That’s exactly what we want,” responded Mody: “That Eshan takes charge, that he takes stock, that a system is put in place, that it becomes much more institutionalised, that everything becomes smoother, less aggravating.”

“Knowledge management takes on new meaning, IT support becomes more meaningful and responsive, and BD becomes more strategic,” noted Mody. “Basically, [Sharma is] to be really running the firm in all the areas that need running, other than the lawyering.”

“One of the objectives that Zia set out for me, is to ensure that the best practices are followed at AZB,” Sharma added. “The entire idea is to make a very happy place of working, to ensure that people are not running around, but they should have one point of contact that people should understand them.”

Mody noted that existing business functions would continue supporting fee-earners, such as the head of BD, head of HR, and so on. “What Ishan is looking to do, and what we’re all hoping, is to pull it all together, from one point of view plus of course it is invaluable for us that Eshan is a lawyer at the end of the day, so he understands that the paint points that are there for the lawyers, and pain points for the non-lawyers.”

His initial time would be spent meeting each department, all the practice heads and travelling to other offices, to get “a sense of what’s on the ground, and being thoughtful what’s needs to change, and what needs bolstering in certain areas”, said Mody.

Previously, between 2015 and 2017, AZB had ex-KPMG associate director Prabhanjan Dhotre as its COO. When he left in April 2017, someone else temporarily filled some of the COO functions until now, said Mody.

The big firms have all been taking COO roles seriously in the past years, such as Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas having hired former Mayer Brown JSM Asia COO Jennifer Milford in 2013, for instance.

And as we had reported in February, DSK Legal had hired former Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas director Padmini Rathore, as its chief operating officer (CEO), which can be a similar to COO in a law firm.

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