Bhumesh Verma on His Journey as a Lawyer and What His Setbacks Have Taught Him – CV of Failures Series

Mr. Bhumesh Verma graduated from Delhi University in 1994. He was selected as a Chevening Scholar in 2000 by the UK government. During this scholarship, he studied at the College of Law at York and worked with Ashursts in London. He was a partner at some of the biggest law firms in the country and then went on to start Corp Comm Legal, after about two decades in the industry.

When we started this ‘CV of Failures‘ series we reached out to Bhumesh Sir for his story and what he would have to share with students and young lawyers. Not only did he graciously agree, but he also answered the questions candidly for the benefit of everyone. Here’s an earlier interview of Bhumesh Sir you could read, to know more about his life and journey.

  • Looking back were there moments that made you question your decision to choose law as a career? How did you deal with them? What were the moments which reaffirmed your faith?

Fortunately, never did I have to question my decision to choose this profession. I have always felt proud of my work and whenever things did not work my way, it was due to factors beyond my control e.g., the clients, the attitude of authorities, the negotiation direction, economic conditions, government policies, and so on.

On the other hand, I have had multiple occasions to feel elated, validated, and vindicated. Coming from a non-legal, non-rich background, nothing much was expected out of me. The affection and goodwill attached to Corp Comm Legal and me to some extent are just unimaginable.

Think about someone telling your Managing Partner that in India, they trust only Bhumesh as a lawyer without knowing I was working with that firm only (this was 14 years ago).  Similarly, when I see clients coming to us to revalidate a Big5 law firm’s opinion or some 5th / 6th-degree contact approaching us for work based on recommendations from our clients from anywhere in the world, it feels good.

What makes this distinct is that all this name and goodwill is generated without any expenditure on nominating ourselves and buying any awards or recognitions.

  • Can you please tell us about the importance of failures and learnings in the legal profession – your experiences in particular?

Law is the most beautiful profession. To my knowledge, no lawyer would have had a 100% success ratio in her career. It is part of our learning process. On one hand, we are addressed as ‘my learned friend’ from day one by the opposing counsel. On the other hand, we say we are learning every day and continue being law students from the womb to the tomb.

I am allergic to the word ‘failure’. If we give our best to anything that we are pursuing, we can never fail – we can only draw learnings if the outcome is not as per our expectations.

As I mentioned earlier, outcomes have been different from our / client’s expectations at multiple times.

Corporate law practice is not only about reading, interpreting the law – it is an amalgam of hard and soft skills (including personality, knowledge, goodwill, timing, wits, persuasion, negotiation, and so on). In that sense, I have had more learnings than many of my fellow professionals because I started with several disadvantages (non-NLU, non-elite, non-family). In every instance, where the outcome is different from your expectation, learn where you got wrong or what you could have done differently.

If you make a mistake once or twice, it is human – any more and it means you aren’t learning and improving.

  • Is there something you wish you had known while starting your career? What advice you would want to give to a junior or your younger self.

Patience and persistence. Easier to preach and very tough to practice.

Young, impatient, and in a hurry – this was Bhumesh of the 1990s. Whenever I was not getting work of my liking, my ideas were not being appreciated, authorities were throwing tantrums, I’d get impatient and even change my firm. Had I waited and dug in, I could have been more productive for the firms and myself. I realized these virtues a bit late in my professional life.

Never too late to improve though and no looking back.

  • If you had to describe your journey in terms of the lessons you’ve learnt from your failures, how hard/smooth do you think it has been for you? 

I do not have an easy life – never had actually.

There’s a fun side to all my shortcomings/failures/ learnings – learnt so many lessons in the hardest of ways. It made my life very smooth in the second half of my career – I am in a very happy and content mode now.

I can say with an ambivalent feeling that I have worked with the best of Indian professionals, from the top floor to the basement, from established ones to wannabes, from most professional to least ones.

All these experiments and switches not only taught me what to do, more importantly, I observed what not to do. All in all, today it helps me in running my boutique firm and not falling into traps of collaboration or merging my practice and so on and so forth.

  • What are some skills which you think have helped you the most over the years? How can young lawyers and students work on it?

Good communication and interpersonal skills, I would say. Who would have imagined a tongue-tied law student to be a guest faculty teaching Indian and international students and professionals alike for hours and days and making boring legal subjects interactive and interesting.

I have been very vocal about my expressions throughout my life – most of the time, it worked against me in big firms where pleasing your boss is your best bet. Therefore, you need to balance it with diplomacy.

As for advice to students and young lawyers, be communicative. Never sit as a mute spectator – do not miss a chance to question or speak. Writing and speaking are two very important aspects of your professional personality. You can cultivate your writing skills by reading and listening to the good stuff (not only legal but otherwise too). Read a lot to develop your knowledge, understanding, and vocabulary.

  • If you could go back in time and change something about your professional experience, what would you change?

When I look back, I have enjoyed this roller coaster ride of life.

I have been too simple throughout my life. No drinks, no smoke, no non-veg food, no late-night parties, loving my family, concentrating on productive time in the office (rather than showing late hours for the sake of it), trying to strike a work-life balance, and so on. That made me a misfit with a couple of firms. With these qualities, you cannot survive in most Indian law firms that thrive on a master/servant (or slave/owner) mindset. However, I would do everything the same way again, if I were to relive.

On a lighter note, I wish my ex-bosses understood me better and gave me greater autonomy to translate my ideas into practice, it would have turned much better. I have seen so many firms in the dumps, just because the promoters wouldn’t pay heed to good advice and fall for sycophancy.

  • What are some things in your experience which people only learn through experience and failures?

Virtually everything. Our entire professional life is an ‘experiential learning’. What our schools and colleges teach us is not even 10% of what we have to undergo in the profession.

Theory can tell us that this process takes this much time, real-life tells us it depends on the mood of a government clerk.

Every day, you fail in something or the other – again fail not necessarily due to your own shortcomings, it could be attributable to the ecosystem as well. Derive your learnings and lessons, change/improve yourself or the processes, and look forward to a different result.

If you keep doing the same things, you can’t get different results.

Change is the only constant in life.

  • Please tell us any bad habits, unfulfilled goals, which you intend to work on in future.

Impatience has been a bane throughout my life. We all have a limited time and have so much to do. I expect everyone to be as organised, passionate, and charged up as me all the time – well, it does not happen many times. Some people are very happy being lazy, lethargic, pampered, ambitionless, and so on. For example, many professionals don’t want to work to generate business but are rather happy to pay a referral fee for readymade business.

Speaking up my mind has been another big issue with me – wish I was more constrained and a bit diplomatic, without being sycophant though. You need to convey your point without sounding offensive.

I have been trying to improve myself. We must understand that all of us have different temperaments, working styles, and so on – learn to keep up with people.

I intend to set up an institution (not necessarily a college/university) for imparting practical knowledge to law students, particularly those belonging to underprivileged sections, non-English background, tier 2 / tier 3 cities. We are also working on “The Indian Lawyers’ League” to bring law students, academics, and professionals on a common platform for sharing knowledge and information.

  • They say that law is a very fulfilling profession. Can you please tell us some instances in your life where you have thought this to be true?

Legal profession indeed is a very fulfilling profession.

With my humble background, I could have never imagined what I am today – having worked with such legal legends, who’s who of global clients (even today with no Big5 name behind us), traveling the world, being an author, a teacher, an influencer and mentor of some kind. All this has happened due to this profession.

Too many instances to count. Besides clients complimenting you for successful closing of their transactions and referring us to more clients, I feel so happy to see messages and compliments from students and professionals on my books. It is a daily affair, getting henceforth unknown people praising and complimenting you.

It manifests that the profession provides us an opportunity to get justice for our clients and society (litigation), make a difference to our economy (corporate/commercial), save the environment, contribute to education (writing/teaching). It enables us to make a difference in people’s and nation’s life. The avenues are immense.

  • A line for our readers, to instill more confidence and more power in them, please!

Believe me, if someone like me can survive in the legal profession for 26 years (so far), you people are much brighter, better, more resourceful in today’s age.

If you can dream it, you can certainly do it.

Keep dreaming, keep learning, keep working. Best of luck.

We need to bring out more stories so that young lawyers who feel apprehensive have an outlet to talk and relate to. If you are somebody who could openly share your failures or learnings from setbacks, please do so. If you want to do it under anonymity, that also works. You could make a CV (with your failures) and send it to us, or write about experiences from your life. Please get in touch at umang.poddar@lawctopus.com.

If you want to write for us, or have a story to share, please get in touch at umang.poddar@lawctopus.com.

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