Universal Legal started its operations with its first office in Bangalore in 2004 and had thereafter set up offices in Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi, and Ahmedabad. In September 2017, Universal Legal merged with IC Legal from Mumbai, which provided the Firm with a very strong presence and deep associations in Mumbai. While Universal Legal’s regional footprint in Southern India provides significant additional bench strength to IC Legal, as a merged entity, clients now have access to approximately 120 lawyers with 15 Partners.
The Firm prides itself on its geographic outreach, not just in India but throughout the world. The Firm is also affiliated to Chugh LLP, a full-service law firm and certified public accountant practice who have their presence in various states of the United States of America. Through this association, the Firm leverages its cross border expertise to develop an experienced and qualitative legal delivery service to facilitate the business requirements of all of their valuable clients.
The Chennai office of the Firm currently headed by Ms. Kavitha Vijay and Ms. Sameena Chatrapathy was set up in 2006 and has since grown to the 30+ member team that it is today. The Chennai office’s primary forte is corporate and transactional law and has recently established a real estate practice with a full-fledged real estate team.
The office was established with the vision to build a credible practice which focuses on non-litigation work in a systematic and qualitative manner, providing clients with timely legal services and business solutions that matter. Ms. Kavitha Vijay and Ms. Sameena Chatrapathy have been associated with the Chennai office since its inception with only 3 members. In the formative years, their work primarily involved advising IT and ITES companies with their day to day corporate law requirements where their role focused on acting as stand-in in-house counsels. Through the associations built during this period, they were able to create a firm foundation and experience to develop a multi-sector specialization leading to the transactional body of work that as a Firm they are extremely proud of.
There are innumerable challenges that the Firm faced through the journey of 13+ years since inception in Chennai, in growing the office from a 2-member team in a small office to a 30+ member team in a prime location in the city that they are currently.
Range of quality services
The Chennai office provides legal services in various practice areas other than litigation and taxation. When they started, the focus of practice was corporate and contractual law, but over the years, the expansion of the team with interests in varied practices and the requirements of clients seeking support in newer horizons has fuelled their ability on a constant basis to grow and expand practice, now making them a full-service corporate law firm.
Experience and the principles ingrained in the team set them apart from competitors and make the Firm extremely amenable to the requirements of a client in terms of timelines, negotiation push and the nature and structure of the documentation. The Chennai office’s core philosophy is to ensure that they are easily accessible to the clients and are always willing to go beyond the call of duty to get the job done.
What the future holds…
They are constantly evaluating the development of additional practice areas, which would enable them to cater to the entire legal requirements of its clients and which would also contribute to the growth of the Firm. Additionally, they remain committed to focusing on the growth of each individual team member, at whatever level, in terms of potential, confidence, and capability, and they look forward to using this to be able to partner with clients on challenging newer and more complex assignments.
They are therefore driven to make each day count, ensuring that it is always far more challenging, fruitful and exciting than the previous, which in any long term reflection shows them an extremely satisfactory journey, which is how they also plan for the future.
Leading women in the law landscape
Ms. Kavitha Vijay and Ms. Sameena Chatrapathy have firmly engrained roots in Chennai and are first-generation lawyers from their respective families.
Ms. Kavitha Vijay graduated from Dr. Ambedkar Government Law College, Chennai and prior to joining the Firm, she worked at Crawford Bayley & Co, Mumbai. She primarily works on mergers, acquisitions, private equity investments, and joint ventures and in 2008, she played a key role in starting the micro-finance practice in the Firm and has since then also been actively engaged in advising many non-banking financial companies and microfinance companies with regulatory compliances, structuring of loan documentation, besides assisting them to raise capital as well as working with investors focused in investing in the non-banking financial space. Her other practice areas include, general corporate law and advisory services and she is actively building up an infrastructure practice for the Firm. She is also an independent member of the board of directors of listed and unlisted companies. On account of her experience, Ms. Kavitha Vijay has recently been working with family groups on the allocation of interest rights, responsibilities and succession issues.
Ms. Sameena Chatrapathy completed her under-graduation with an honours degree in art and law from the School of Excellence in Law, The Tamil Nadu Dr. Ambedkar Law University, Chennai and did her Masters in International Commercial Law from the United Kingdom. She was a university top rank holder all through her five years of under-graduate legal education, graduating with distinction. She joined the Chennai office in 2006 and has worked with the Firm since. She was promoted early to the designation of Partner within 6 years of being with the Firm. While her expertise is Corporate and Transactional work, she has also been instrumental in setting up new practice areas for the Firm, such as Life Sciences, Media & Entertainment and the latest being Real Estate. She has, because of her inclination towards the protection of women’s rights, spearheaded the Firm’s initiative to bring establishments in India in compliance with the sexual harassment laws, and is a key member of the internal complaints committees of over 15 domestic establishments.
The latest effort by Ms. Kavitha Vijay and Ms. Sameena Chatrapathy was in late 2016 when they decided to foray into the real estate segment under the leadership of Ms. Sameena Chatrapathy. They have since built a 6 member dedicated real estate team and have had the good fortune of working on some of the largest real estate projects in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Karnataka.
The Firm has streamlined teams for each industry sector practiced by the Firm, and for each client therein. This ensures a complete understanding of the business and background of the client, thus leading to a smooth and hassle-free long term engagement with the client.
They firmly believe that it is the team that is the spirit of any organization and therefore the team is paramount to the Firm. They strive to ensure that every member in the organization individually grows from strength to strength, not only developing professional expertise but consciously focusing on personality development. The Firm applies this principle across the board in the team, be it at a fresher level or at a senior level. This belief stems from the fact that, if each individual grows, when taken collectively, the Firm automatically grows with no particular effort.
It is the team that is the spirit of any organization and therefore the team is paramount to the Firm.
Each individual’s growth pattern is firmly driven by that individual’s interest and initiative and they at the Firm nurture opportunities to foster this interest and initiative.
Overwhelming client experience
The Chennai office had its first big break when they represented the promoters of Bachi Shoes in the acquisition by the Tata Group, which was a complex transaction involving multiple entities and co-ordination with many consultants to bring the matter to its final conclusion. This was followed by their next big break when the Firm represented Swelect Energy Systems (formerly known as Numeric Power Systems) in their business division sell out to Legrand, which was the largest acquisition the UPS business vertical has seen. The Founder of Swelect interviewed them and amongst other firms, decided to give IC Universal Legal the opportunity to counsel on a transaction that had extremely high stakes. Successful closure of this business acquisition and the fact that they not only lived up to the trust reposed in them but continue to service the company even today is a testimony of the relationship that the Firm built through their work.
Every interaction with a client is a special one.
Every interaction with a client is a special one, especially since, over the years in the business, the Firm has encountered many occasions where they have started a transaction representing a party and by the end of the transaction, they have bagged the faith of other parties involved, with them turning into clients who partner with the Firm on a long term basis.
The Strength behind the Firm’s long-standing success
As a strategy, the Firm believes that no work is too small and therefore their commitment to deliver to the satisfaction of the clients and be a true partner in their journey is evident by the fact that they undertake any work that comes to the Firm, which is within their domain of practice. Their experience has always been that this small work and interactions have always led them to more work from larger horizons.
When the Firm works on a transaction, the strategy is always driven to contribute in the interest of the transaction, without of course compromising the interest of the valuable client and lead the transaction to closure in a practical and effective manner, which has in most cases resulted in them walking away from the transaction with a new client and a new introduction. This has clearly been the Firm’s most effective growth strategy. More than a practice per se the success of any Firm is driven by the quality of work, the understanding of businesses, accessibility and providing solutions that matter. This is evident from the success of niche and boutique firms as well as multi-practice firms in the same jurisdiction. While the expansion of practice is the cornerstone of growth and development of an organization, quality work which results in faithful clients is what ensures long lasting success.