By Daniel Hunter
London-based barrister Ravi Aswani of the renowned Stone Chambers, Gray’s Inn, is helping to boost the reputation of Britain’s barristers abroad, having secured substantial work in India with help from UK Trade & Investment (UKTI).
Ravi specialises in international commercial dispute resolution, much of which involves resolving disputes in the High Court in London or in London arbitration between international parties.
As part of the help and support received from UKTI, Ravi has built up success in India by learning about cultural differences and the importance of the personal touch and face-to-face contact.
“When I go abroad I have a number of areas to focus on but marketing myself, and the London dispute resolution community is crucial," he said.
“The Bar remains at heart a referral profession so barristers are instructed as a general rule by other lawyers rather than the public. However, marketing is now as important as it is in other businesses: there are comprehensively researched legal directories which rank barristers against their peers and there is increasing competition for the top quality commercial work.
“And with economic power gradually shifting from West to East it’s vital to stay ahead of the game and maintain London’s reputation as the place for dispute resolution.
“When it comes to breaking into a new international market, there is no substitute to visiting the market in question and meeting important people there. With UKTI help, it is possible to do this in a very targeted and efficient manner.”
Ravi began visiting India in 2006, arranging visits to potential clients through mutual acquaintances and attending trade conferences, and has been returning around once every year since then. In 2009 he participated in a UKTI supported Bar Council trip to India. He began to learn about the marketplace and develop relationships locally before seeing a slow increase in work ultimately originating in India.
“UKTI have been great," he said, "they periodically arrange market visits overseas for barristers, in close liaison with the Bar Council. In advance of the visit there are meetings to help pinpoint the overall strategy of the visit and decide who is to give any presentations and who the audiences of such presentations should be. There is very good co-operation between UKTI and the Bar Council which has evolved over a number of visits. Together they have a good idea of what works and what doesn’t.
“UKTI’s contacts are also important to get your foot in the door with a degree of credibility. UKTI, through its Embassy network, can host events for local lawyers and businessmen. Additionally, they can assist in arranging visits to local chambers of commerce and courts. Such diplomatic and consular assistance can really open doors as can the local databases and contacts lists.
“Of course it has not been easy to secure work. A lot of the trips involve your own money and time, but I have a long term strategy and for me it is worth it — I see the outlay on each overseas visit as an investment in myself, my chambers and London’s reputation. You really do get what you put in, and with hard work and persistence it is possible to establish yourself in a new market starting from scratch.”
Elizabeth Fehnrich, Trade Advisor for UKTI London, said:
“Ravi has participated in two joint UKTI-Bar Council trade missions and he and I have kept in touch over the years.
“India is a difficult market to enter, especially for those in the legal profession. There’s a lot to learn, from culture to regulations, and developing relationships is one of the most difficult parts of this.
“Exporting is vitally important to every sector of the UK if we want to see our economy grow. At UKTI we are here to help, advise and support those willing to try every step of the way.”
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