“Treating Colleagues with trust & respect, implementing latest best practices & technology, constantly upgrading personal capabilities to save time, money & resources for the client is vital to being relevant and competitive” – Dr Vinod Surana
The flourishing legal industry in India is growing in lockstep with the Indian economy, which is poised to remain the fastest growing economy in the world post the COVID 19 crisis thereby , creating extraordinary growth opportunities for competent lawyers and law firms. Demand for legal services in India will grow exponentially with very large infrastructure projects expected to be launched by the Indian Government to counter the economic slow down with multinational & domestic companies expanding in India; many Indian companies entering into cross-border transactions; increasing levels of legal awareness, regulation & compliance. One law firm that has been able to seize these opportunities and add value to its clients is Chennai Head Quartered Surana and Surana International Attorneys.
With roots dating back to 1971, this firm has been dedicated to providing quick relief to clients and is described as the “first choice” and the “go-to” firm for legal advice in South India. They have been consistently ranked among the top law firms of India since 1998 by national and international publications and clients. They provide legal services like arbitration, mediation, litigation, corporate, commercial, criminal, infrastructure, IPR, real estate, regulatory investigations and compliance and tax.
FUNCTIONING ON 7 P’s FOR SUCCESS
P.S. Surana founded this firm on seven principles which he followed since his young days and every member of the firm has been trained to follow, namely:
Purpose – We exist for the success of our clients – “to defend (them) and to destroy (their problems)”. To add value to their operations in Legal, Financial, Operational, Management functions.
Prompt – Be available for the client at any time of the day or night. P.S. Surana realized the importance of immediate response and quick results for the clients and community. There is a premium for speeding response.
Practical – A “Bullet-proof” legal advice or opinion is of no use if the case drags on for decades. Constantly focus on small & immediate Interim Reliefs through interim applications and negotiations with stake holders to help client have fund flow and working capital. If a settlement is in the interest of a client, then advice the client without hesitation and hand hold him or her to ensure a “best-in-circumstances” settlement. Be practical.
Patient – It is the mother of all virtues. Hear the client patiently, constantly maintain focus on outcome but avoid haste. “Patient & Steady” wins the race.
Personalize – Always personalize your service for each client. “One size fits all” will not always work in law. Personalized services are the most effective, appreciated &rewarded.
Precise – Precision is very important for law firms. Accurately perceive (the problem) and correctly express your thoughts (orally & in writing). This requires tremendous homework, a calm mind and sharp focus on outcomes. Keeping everything simple & functional is one of the traits of a successful lawyer.
Principles – Last and most important “when character is lost everything is lost.” Principles are important. This firm does not work for the alcohol, tobacco, meat processing and gambling industries.
No wonder he earned tags such as Systematic Surana, Settlement Surana, Swift Surana, Simple Surana, Successful Surana.
” Due to these principles, the firm has earned a reputation for honesty, reliability, efficiency & effectiveness” – Dr Vinod Surana
ADAPTING AND EVOLVING WITH EMERGING TRENDS
Surana and Surana International Attorneys are all about being a people-focused organization – be it clients or colleagues. They constantly look to incorporate the best practices among lawyers and law firms worldwide. Whether it is work culture, workflow, innovation or client management they constantly adapt and implement best practices. “Of our people, By our people & For our people” always. A multi course lunch & beverages throughout the day, family medical and accident insurance, monthly appreciation celebrations etc are some of the standard practices at this firm for decades. Respectful culture, safe environment, understanding & humane management, no long hours & “no home work” makes the firm the most preferred place for women professionals to work from. Women outnumber men here.
They are in the process of implementing a customized Enterprise Resource Planning Software. As Asia’s first ISO 9001 Certified Law Firm (1998) work processes here have matured over the past two decades.
“As General Counsel for Keane, I can say that my best experience with any law firm in India had been with Surana” Mr. John Deck, General Counsel, Keane Inc.
EVOLUTION OF THE LEGAL SCENE
The legal scene in India is rapidly evolving as the tertiary sector gets a greater share in the economy. New laws & regulations, greater compliance, governance and transparency are positive signs. The government is a major stakeholder in the legal profession and the firm has been advocating for greater e-governance at the state & national level, mandatory filling of judicial vacancies within 60 days, parity in retirement age of Supreme Court & High Court judges, computerization and internet based justice delivery processes etc to meet growing aspirations of the citizens for an effective justice delivery system.
The firm has launched successful practices like cyber law, risk management and mitigation, business restructuring and process rationalization to meet the needs of new economy clients.
LAW PRACTICE IN THE DIGITAL ERA
Industries in India and worldwide are being rapidly transformed by digital technologies. Customer experience is at the core of this transformation. In the legal services industry digitization and automation is just getting started. Surana and Surana have been pioneers in the implementation of the latest technology. They fully computerized in 1987 and introduced practice management software in 1998. Now, they are in the final stages of implementing an ERP solution having an easy to use front-end with a sophisticated back end program incorporating data analytics, time & resource management, HR best practices implementation & management, finance & case management etc.
The continuous improvement culture under ISO 9001 since 1998 has helped evolve their IT systems and work processes thereby ensuring a “continuous, incremental & smooth” infusion of global best practices.
“A home-grown upgrade is more readily accepted than a new external system,” said Dr Vinod Surana
ACKNOWLEDING AND OVERCOMING CHALLENGES
To move out of one’s comfort zone, one has to accept and overcome their fear of failure. Some of the major mistakes that Surana and Surana have made are avoiding bidding for “low – fee” government projects for over 20 years due to which they lost out on large transactions and consequentially they could not qualify to pitch for large high-end work from the private sector in India & overseas. Another mistake has been that despite significant demand they didn’t open branch offices in cities like Bengaluru, Mumbai and Delhi.
“Going forward, we are going to rectify these mistakes and grow” stated Dr Vinod Surana
THRIVING ON COMPETITION
This firm’s uniqueness is adding value to clients through specialized multi-disciplinary services to clients with their full-time expert Advocates, Chartered Accountants, Company Secretaries, Engineers, Management and Financial experts as well. This allows clients to benefit from 360 degree perspectives and get effective solutions.
“YOU” ARE THE ONLY COMPETITOR
Leaders at Surana and Surana believe that it is not difficult to stay relevant and motivated in the industry if you are constantly competing with yourself. “You must be better today than what you were yesterday”. Just be aware of the environment and not be influenced or pressurized by it. External competition should not bother you.
“I have tried different legal offices around the world, but Surana & Surana was the best and unmatched” – Mr. RaedAlkhalaileh, General Manager, NourIndia Engineers Pvt Ltd
STRONG DIFFERENTIATOR IS VITAL
Well, Surana and Surana is a home-grown law firm having earned their reputation by being “always available” and providing effective solutions to clients. The most prominent reasons to choose them over their peers are availability, ability, reasonableness, national and international network of professional and industry contacts. A major edge over their peers is their policy to respond to clients within 8 working hours and the ability to turn around most assignments within 72 hours.
“I can give the work to Surana & Surana and feel assured that at the end of the day the work is done and it’s on my table” – Mr. J Balakrishnan, CFO, Fifth Avenue Group
RESEARCH A VITAL DIFFERENTIATOR
The legal industry thrives on constant learning & deep research. This is a vital differentiator and reason for success in any intellectual assignment. To be successful, one not only needs to know the latest developments but also the latest interpretation (of the law). Know thyself & know thy enemy. Then you needn’t fear the outcome of a thousand battles.
“Law is a codification of social norms and an instrument of social change. A good lawyer is vital for a nation’s progress” said Dr Vinod Surana
ATTRIBUTES & ADVICE FOR NEW ENTRANTS
The youngsters should “be patient, listen more, and talk less” -many problems get solved by these. On the foundation of patience & silence, build an edifice with self-confidence and hard work. This is guaranteed to translate into material success. Every young professional must strive to develop inner strength which can only be attained by spirituality and morality.
“Shortcuts and unethical acts are suicidal” Emphasised Dr Vinod Surana
WORLD’S LARGEST SKILL DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM FOR LAWYERS
The firm does a lot of free legal work for charities & education institutions including environmental and Public Interest Litigation in High Courts and Supreme Court. However, our most unique contribution is organizing, administering, sponsoring and hosting the world’s largest skill development program for young lawyers by conducting the largest moot court program in the world. This activity completes 25 years in 2020. We have done over 300 moot courts and over 100 law article writing competitions benefiting over 35000 students till date.
“We are committed to improving the quality of legal education and lawyers in India from last 25 years,” said Dr Vinod Surana
MILESTONES & RECOGNITIONS INTERNATIONALLY
The firm has received several recognitions worldwide due to competence, integrity, quick turn-around, practical commercial-legal solutions, and research, domestic & global network of associate law firms. Following are some of the recognitions & milestones in our fifty-year history:
- 1987- Our first International Litigation in an Italian Court
- 1988- Introduced Technology (4 PCs and printer on LAN – 32 years ago)
- 1994- Hyundai Motor India (1st major international client)
- 1998 – 1999 – First Santro& Made in India First Accent car publically presented to founder partner by Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu
- 1999- Asia’s first ISO 9001 law firm
- 1999- Listed among ‘Top 10’ law firms in India for the first time by Legal Business, London
- 1999-2004 – Independent practice verticals for the different practice areas such as Real Estate, Litigation, Intellectual Property Right, Corporate,Tax, Arbitration
- 2004- World’s first ISO 14000 & SA8000 Certified law firm
- 2006- International Star Award for Quality Management by BID in Paris
- 2009- Moved into custom-built Headquarters
- 2010 – Only Indian law firm to be featured as a case study in the International bestseller “DEVELOPING A PROFITABLE PRACTICE IN ASIA”
- 2009 – 2012 – Partner called to lead delegations of Indian government and business leaders to Argentina, Brazil, Caribbean, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay under banners of CII & FICCI.
- 2011 – Hosted the Vice President of Uruguay and his 63 member ministerial delegation
- 2013- Hosted the former President of Argentina & his high level 60 member delegation.
- 2014 – Partners called to lead a delegation of Indian business leaders to Israel under FICCI banner
- 2015 – Nikki R Haley’s Letter of Appreciation for law firm(former US Ambassador to the UNO)
- 2016 – Partners listed in Lexis Nexus’s 100 Legal Luminaries of India (re-tweeted by US Consulate)
- 2017 – Partners listed in Jewels of South India as leading & emerging global personality
- 2018- Successful conceptualization, advocacy & launch of India’s first Defence manufacturing corridor. Then Union Minister of Defence & current Finance Minister, Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman mentioned on social media about her visit to the law firm and Surana family (meeting with prominent citizens of Chennai)
- 2018- CEO & Partner listed among India’s fastest growing CEO
RECOGNITIONS & AWARDS
- International Financial Law Review’s (London) ‘Law Firm of the Year’ 4 years in a row
- Law Firm of the Year (Legal Era, Mumbai)
- Negotiator of the Year (Acquisition International, UK)
- M&A Law Firm of the Year (Acquisition International, UK)
- Trademarks Law Firm of the Year (Corporate Intl., UK)
- South India- Law Firm of the Year (ACQ Global Awards, UK)
- Offshore Firm of the Year (Finance Monthly, UK)
- Partnership Award (by National Innovation Foundation, Govt. of India)
- Full-Service Law Firm of India (Global Law Experts)
- Trade Mark Law Firm of the Year (Global Law Experts)
- Technology Law Firm of the Year (Global Law Experts)
- Mr P.S. Surana – Lifetime Achievement Award- (Institute of Directors)
- Law Firm of the Year (Finance Monthly Law Awards)
- Dr Vinod Surana, recognized as a leading lawyer in Corporate/M&A by Chambers Asia-Pacific
Our strength and our soul are our competent, committed and loyal core team of professionals
Key members have educational qualifications from internationally renowned institutions and decades of “diverse & deep” experience in industry and professional firms. They are directors on boards of major domestic and international organizations, trustees/inheritance administrators for reputed families and hold leadership positions in several national industry associations & Chambers of Commerce. Due to the collective expertise of the team, I believe we continue to attract the finest talent and most prestigious assignments in the region to remain the “first choice” for legal services in South India.
“No matter what shape of size the container has, the cream (merit) will always raise to the top.”
“I believe life is like a game of cricket where you will never face a straight ball. Don’t do anything foolish to lose your wicket (like getting caught, stumped, run out or LBW)”.
“Destined to succeed”
Dr Vinod Surana
Excerpts from interview with Dr. Surana by Pulkit Sharma