Shiv is a Barrister and Mediator who sits at the sharp end of social and corporate responsibility. His work is a cross-over between law, strategy and international business. Shiv became Director of the specialist legal firm, Fulcrum Chambers Ltd, based in The Shard, at the age of just 28, having previously served as one of London’s youngest Magistrates and worked for a current member of the Cabinet.
He performs a valuable role, noting “the majority of my work involves investigations, advising on and implementing bespoke compliance programmes as well as representing companies at trial.” He told us that he is “also called upon to give expert evidence on English law, in particular the Bribery Act 2010, from time to time.” Describing his firm he said, “we don’t shout about a lot of what we do but we’ve been involved in, and continue to be involved in, the very best work in the market and serve as discreet advisors to governments and companies, including listed multi-nationals, across a range of sectors from Mining, Oil & Gas, Banking, Defence and Engineering.”
Shiv elaborated: “My career as a Barrister has evolved from traditional practice in a set of Chambers to acting, within a specialist legal business, as a trusted advisor providing independent advice to companies and boards to facilitate commercial decision-making and risk management.” Indeed, Shiv specifically identifies “advocacy and people” as his motivation. “It’s a privilege to be paid for your advice and strategic judgment and it is very rewarding to both shoulder and relieve burdens for people who find themselves in difficult situations. The work we do is predominantly international in nature and requires high levels of EQ as well as pure ‘black-letter’ legal skills. Sophisticated advice involves the ability to think creatively. It’s very satisfying to use every part of your mind and personality to achieve successful outcomes for those that you represent and indeed for those outcomes often to be so clearly measurable.” The benefit of open yet measured wisdom and guidance has been one of the defining factors in the multidimensional lawyer’s life. “I was incredibly fortunate to have a childhood where I spent a lot of time with my grandparents,” he continued.
“My maternal grandfather was a farmer. My paternal grandfather was a truck driver. Neither of them had any formal education but both recognized the value of personal responsibility and individual endeavour. Like so many others, they both came to the UK from India, via East Africa, in search of a better life for their families. In time, both started successful businesses which continue to flourish and create employment today. They were also supported throughout by strong women, who survive them, and who worked even harder, and sacrificed even more, so their children would have opportunities that they themselves never did. The fearlessness of that generation, a generation that is starting to disappear, who came from overseas dreaming of a more secure and prosperous future, is humbling.”
Shiv also acts as a mentor for the Social Mobility Foundation, which improves opportunity for aspiring young people. “I believe that the two deciding factors in any life are luck, taken in its many forms, and hard work; my upbringing taught me the value of both. I believe that society, working at its best, increases the rewards of the latter while minimizing the effects of the lack of the former. There have historically been issues within the law but there is a clear recognition by the guardians of the profession that a lack of diversity poses a threat to one of the jewels of the economy. I’m hopeful for the future in this regard based on the commitment and changes that I see.”
He further commented on his own journey: “I’m surrounded on a day-to-day basis by incredibly able people that I admire greatly. The founders of Fulcrum Chambers Ltd have been very supportive of my career, disregarding some of the more anachronistic practices which still persist in the legal industry, valuing merit over hierarchy and encouraging an entrepreneurial ethos.”
”I don’t think that we are living in a more corrupt world – quite the opposite…” Shiv stated on the topic of white-collar crime. “A lot my work is around prevention and assisting our clients to manage their reputations to avoid situations escalating to the point where they fall under the media and regulatory spotlight. Companies are recognising the commercial benefits that can be achieved as a welcome byproduct of a focus on integrity, sustainability and ethical practices. The availability of easily searchable electronic data, cross-border cooperation and the law enforcement tools at the disposal of regulators mean that businesses are under an unprecedented intensity of scrutiny. As to the question of whether companies need greater oversight, its important to keep in mind that change at a macro level isn’t driven by regulators and lawyers but by investors and shareholders.”
Shiv concluded by cautioning on the danger of an inflexible mindset within the legal industry, “Firms that can’t or won’t adapt to reflect the commerciality and modern working practices of their clients will struggle to survive. Increased consciousness as to the importance of well-being will mean that bigger firms will have to consider moving away from draconian billing targets that not only foster inefficiency but at worst, ‘creative accounting’. The professional services industry is having to think very carefully as to how it attracts and retains the brightest people who are capable of independent thought. Increasing starting salaries is not enough and will, in any event, be unsustainable in the medium to long term as clients scrutinise the value that their advisors provide with increasing sophistication and rigour.”
He added: “The difficulty is that given the obsession with hierarchy in the traditional legal profession, these changes affecting the industry are, in the short term at least, unlikely to materially to affect those who occupy well-remunerated leadership positions within large firms. There is a risk therefore that the incentives to drive rapid change and future-proof the businesses that they oversee are limited.”
What has been a highlight of your career?
Over the past five years I have acted for the French multi-national, Alstom, both at trial and in the Court of Appeal as part of one of the most significant prosecutions in the history of UK financial crime. The company was acquitted of three of the four charges brought by the Serious Fraud Office. These sorts of cases don’t come along very often and it may be that with the advent of Deferred Prosecution Agreements, there won’t be a case of similar magnitude for many years.
What is your advice to current aspiring lawyers?
I read Law at university and decided not to pursue a training contract at a Magic Circle law firm in favour of a career at the Bar. I’m not sure I would be making the same choices today. Pursue a non-legal degree that you truly enjoy – life is too short to waste so much time memorising information that can be accessed at the click of a button in the ‘real world’. Think about a first career doing something else, anything else quite frankly, before you decide to become a lawyer. If you do decide to become a lawyer, don’t specialise too early. Competition for training contracts and pupillages is ferocious and the industry is changing rapidly. The skills required to be a successful ‘lawyer’ aren’t going to be the same in five years as they were five years ago.