Lawyers are feeling the pinch as clients weighed down by the pandemic push for lower legal fees. Vandana Chatlani reports
Businesses worldwide ground to a screeching halt as covid-19 lockdowns paralyzed commercial activity for much of 2020. The pandemic caught governments, businesses and individuals off -guard, throwing India and the rest of the world into months of dizzying uncertainty and danger. Companies faced with a resource crunch looked to cancel or postpone deals, while those embroiled in litigation had no choice but to wait for the courts to reopen.
The damaging effect of covid-19 on legal spending is unsurprising. The pandemic has throttled various industries including tourism, hospitality, travel and luxury goods, and those struggling to keep afloat have been keen to slash legal budgets wherever possible.
“The majority of law firms are facing challenges such as fewer inquiries, disturbed operations, stalled cashflow, increased fixed expenses, risk of closing the business, and stress and low morale,” says Manoj Kumar, the managing partner of Hammurabi & Solomon in New Delhi. “Covid-19 has impacted not only the operations and the functioning of the bar and benches, but also various other stakeholders of the legal marketplace.”
Priti Suri, the founder and managing partner of PSA Legal in New Delhi, says in 2020, “everything has been topsy turvy and, honestly, nobody wants to pay the asking rates, unless you are acting on billion-dollar mandates. Even when we send out proposals, we find we have to renegotiate, depending on many variables, be it scope or budget or other considerations. Everyone wants fixed fees.”
Praveen Agarwal, the founding partner of Agarwal Jetley & Co in New Delhi, says that covid-19 has adversely impacted revenue, “with billings down by at least 30% this financial year”.