Posted In: News Updates
Posted By: Singularity Legal
As a launch to the second edition of Forbes India Legal Powerlist 2021, CNN has been running presentations featuring winners of the 2020 edition. As a previous winner, Prateek Bagaria was invited to discuss Singularity’s unique and fast-growing business model, his journey running an international disputes boutique in India, the Indian market for international disputes and the growth of litigation finance in India. He was joined by Montek Mayal, Senior Managing Director at FTI Consulting, and Tom Glasgow, Chief Investment Officer (Asia) at OmniBridgeway who were invited to speak on their experience working with Singularity. The session was moderated by Anusha Soni, Deputy News Editor at CNN-News18.
The session was opened with an introduction to the Forbes India Legal Powerlist and its commitment to identify and felicitate young exemplary lawyers who have demonstrated superior leadership. Prateek and Singularity were then introduced as winners in the Top Individual Lawyers under 10 years and Top Law Firm under 10 years categories.
On his journey, Prateek reminisced about how he was fortunate to have the right mentors throughout his career who honed his passion and helped define his journey. He said that the primary inspiration for Singularity was the lack of firms in India that dealt in esoteric disputes with an international character. He noted that Singularity distinguishes itself from other players in the market through leading its disputes by assisting clients right from the beginning till the money is recovered, by dealing in multi-jurisdictional work, its “Silicon Valley” mindset with no hierarchy and no dress code, and its sheer focus on talent and merit. Singularity’s mantra has been its “interdependent modularity” model whereby its core legal team closely works and collaborates with experts, like Montek and Tom, providing clients with high-quality work products.
When asked about his experience with Singularity, Tom recalled his first meeting with Prateek; noting that since then, he and Prateek have worked together in many capacities; most recently in raising awareness on litigation finance as an innovative tool to assist clients in complex, costly multi-jurisdictional disputes. Montek highlighted that Singularity’s uniqueness lies in its ability to handle niche cross-border disputes and investigations, a deep understanding of commerce, and comprehensive knowledge of laws, both domestic and foreign. He added that Singularity’s practical and commercial approach, and combined efforts with experts across multiple disciplines, is really beneficial to clients.
On Singularity’s distinctive work in sports law, and the challenges in doping disputes, Prateek noted how such disputes have been close to his heart. He pointed out that these are especially challenging in India due to the system’s athlete-unfriendliness, the lack of facilities to train athletes about banned substances, and the athletes’ inability to afford remedies even in India, let alone foreign tribunals. In light of this, Singularity had started a pro bono initiative called PlayTrue to represent athletes in their disputes, and is already helping five wronged athletes.
The discussion then shifted to the growth of litigation finance in India. Tom brought up how litigation finance has grown quite popular in India in the recent years, and that he has been involved in active discussions in India for a number of years. Indian corporates involved in international litigations or arbitrations are incurring very high costs, in complex, high-risk disputes, and working with a litigation funder can help to level the playing field or deal with inequities that Indian parties might face on unfamiliar grounds.
Montek illuminated the challenges in monetising claim as an asset for a funder. There are multiple factors involved in valuing a claim asset – legal factors to ascertain the chance of success on merits and establish liability, economic factors to determine the value of the claim, and commercial factors to examine chances and timelines of successful recovery. He enlisted the various economic considerations in establishing value like the appropriate legal and economic framework, principles, the date of assessment, relevant industry or macroeconomic data, and the final stress test to the analysis. This process when thoroughly undertaken, and well supported, comforts funders who in turn make the investment.
The last question of the session was posed to Prateek regarding the development of litigation finance in India compared to the rest of the world, and the processes involved in obtaining funding. Prateek responded that legally, India is better placed than most jurisdictions, since there were no laws of champerty and maintenance. This equates India with robust jurisdictions like the Netherlands or Germany. Where India lacks, is firstly, awareness and knowledge which is missing in both the client and the lawyers, and secondly, there are hardly any home-grown funders who are readily investing in claims. So far as the process, Prateek noted that it is akin to venture capital or bank investment, with the only difference that the asset is the underlying litigation.