Running his own practice today and based in Australia, Deepesh stopped by Singapore for the Insider Guide to Legal in Singapore event jointly organised by Asia Law Network together with the Law Society of Singapore, the Singapore Corporate Counsel Association and our Australian Counterparts, AlphaCreates and ASEAN Legal Tech Association.
Deepesh was in Singapore recently and Asia Law Network caught up with him despite his busy schedule. He shared with us where he was inspired to be a lawyer and his thoughts on the legal landscape in the near future.
Deepesh has some 20 years of domestic and international experience gained in working in leading law firms in Australia, Canada and Japan. He specialises in corporate and finance transactions and has acted on matters ranging from debt financing for property acquisitions to large, complex domestic and cross border transactions for public listed corporations.
Can you share with us what made you choose to be a lawyer and what drives you today?
My childhood was spent growing up under apartheid in South Africa. It was an oppressive and violent regime and my family and I were fortunate enough to start a new life in Australia. Those early years however left a deep impression on me and heightened my awareness of injustice and how civil rights can be subjugated. That was how my interest in the law began to take root and I was inspired by lawyers like Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, both of whom whose passion, tenacity and will power to overcome insurmountable challenges resonated with me.
Both these men were visionaries, who upheld their morals and integrity but sacrificed their own liberty, to fight against injustice in South Africa at very different times in history. The values they stood for have influenced my own professional identity as a lawyer. I try to apply the same personal characteristics to my own practice – passion, tenacity, resilience and will power.
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
I run my own practice so I would say the most challenging aspect is managing both the practice of law and running a business. It requires attention for the day to day matters to ensure attention to detail and that clients receive a high standard of service as well as ensuring sufficient time is dedicated to admin and business development to ensure future work flows.
What is the most significant case/deal you have worked on?
I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to have worked on many interesting deals. One that stands out for me is having acted for General Electric Capital Corporation in relation to its cross-border $160 million multicurrency credit facility to Billabong International Limited and its subsidiaries in the United States of America, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Canada. Billabong was close to being insolvent and we had the opportunity to work with a global team of lawyers to save an iconic Australian surf brand.
What are some of the best lawyers you have worked with and why?
Without mentioning anyone by name, I would say the best lawyers that I have worked with have had the following characteristics – they have been down to earth, willing to roll their sleeves up and do what was required on the deal regardless of their title and were able to inspire the team and provide leadership.
What do you think is the future of lawyering?
Lawyering has a bright future but the industry will look very different from what it is today. As clients demand better value for money, lawyers will need to involve legal technology in their practices and look to new ways of providing their services to deliver better value. This will give rise to increased implementation of legal tech in practices and new skill sets required to create, implement and utilise this technology in a meaningful way. The age old skills of synthesising legal knowledge and providing practical solutions to clients will however always underpin any legal practice.
What legal issue or area do you think will become more significant in the future?
As a banking and finance lawyer, I am seeing global money markets become more fractured and capital being sourced from many different avenues, including ultra-high net worth individuals. As a result, compliance is becoming increasingly important and I foresee increased regulation in the non-bank sector becoming more prevalent in the future, not only in Australia but globally.
If you were to compare the legal landscape in the past versus the present, what do you think has changed the most?
The biggest change in my view, has been clients’ expectations. Clients are now much better informed and demand value for money.
What do you foresee being the biggest challenge for legal teams in the future?
The biggest challenge is the ability to scale legal teams up and down depending on necessity and resources required to complete projects. As firms have needed to focus on providing value to clients, legal teams have become leaner. The challenge is to have the resources required to scale up when needed while not having large teams of salaried lawyers on standby and under utilised for large blocks of time.
What other skills do you think young lawyers need to stay relevant in the future?
Young lawyers will need traditional legal skills such as understanding, analysing and synthesising the law to provide practical and effective solutions to clients. They will also need communication and business development skills needed to build a practice as well as an understanding of legal tech and how to effectively utilise it to provide value to clients. Young lawyers will need to have a well rounded skill set comprising traditional legal skills as well as technology and entrepreneurial skills to stay relevant.
You recently attended the Insider Guide to Legal in Singapore, what do you think about the event pertaining to the differences or similarities that Australian and Singapore lawyers face?
I think Singaporean and Australian lawyers face many of the same challenges. These include how to implement legal tech to provide better value and service to clients, whether to merge with other (often larger) firms or to go it alone and how to ensure that their firms and lawyers stay relevant going into the future.
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