Legal research

The ‘X’ Factor

I do hope that you enjoy reading regular updates from Riverus. A relevant article is a great boon. It reduces the time to decode a complex topic. If organised well, a collection of articles serves as a reference material that you can turn to while solving a client problem. This week too, I have chosen two interesting recent cases around bogus expenditure and liability of a non-resident to pay advance tax, about which you would love to learn. In the coming few days, I am also getting you a slightly detailed article around disallowance of expenditure incurred for generating exempt income. I see lots of disputes around this issue. Basically, I try to deliver to you some parts of my learning from my practice as a lawyer.

You may perhaps not know that before founding Riverus, I also founded a law firm called Verus and continue to practice law there. I have written here how my initial challenges at Verus enthused me to set up Riverus.

Through my law practice in the law firm, I witnessed that scores of new practitioners join the profession every year but only a few make a successful practice. Often, there is not a great divide in the merit of a successful professional and a not so successful one. A key element of building a successful practice is to be able to deliver value to clients every time they knock on your doors. A client who receives value becomes a reference for another prospective client and the network keeps getting wide. This is especially true for solo practitioners or small firms who would not spend a large amount of money on marketing or networking. Now, there is no fixed formula for delivering value to clients for if there was one, the number of successful practices would have skyrocketed. The interesting part though is that the practitioners generally know what constitutes value. A tax practitioner, for example, must be able to pinpoint to a client, risks of undertaking certain transactions. This part is well known and all practitioners aim to do the same. How would you create value for your client – giving the same old answers OR giving something more like an X factor that your colleague or competitor would not provide?

So where is the X factor?

The X factor actually comprises many things; most important being whether you could demonstrate genuine empathy for your clients’ situations. Can you put yourself in the shoes of your client and answer the most critical questions that the client would never ask? Or answer those questions that other practitioners would just brush aside?

I have often found my clients asking the likely time that they would spend litigating an issue as opposed to accepting a conservative position or accepting a settlement. Most practitioners brush aside this question. Many of them do not know the answer and some of them do not care! Just think of the value that a practitioner would be able to deliver if he could provide pointed timeline which could correlate with past experience. Clients will never forget to spot such value. Then again, clients keep asking questions like what are their chances of success on certain issues. Practitioners keep providing roundabout answers because they do not want to bind them with the liability of a more pointed answer turning wrong.  The real value would lie if the practitioner is able to deliver confident advice on how tax courts could view certain decisions and the ‘trend’ of the courts on an issue. Even better, a value-driven tax practitioner would be able to tell a litigating client how a specific judge is likely to rule on the client’s issue.

In short, there is great value in providing ‘insight’ provided you possess the same. That’s why grey hair matter in our profession.

The good news also is technology is breaking the barrier between the grey-haired and the rest by condensing insight accessible on a computer screen. I am sure you spend a great amount of time and money in reading various online articles, news items and accessing case law databases like Taxman, CTR and the likes.

You must ask yourself,

  • Am I able to obtain valuable insights by doing what I am doing today?
  • What are the questions on which I am not able to get insights from my existing vendors?

Remember, there is a critical difference between ‘information’ and ‘insight’. ‘Information’ is easy to collect and difficult to use. Insight is difficult to collect but is readily usable. In today’s world to operate without insight could turn out to be a costly error.

The other value, and I am sure you would agree, lies in saving time.

Time is the other thing that you today have as the most precious commodity. The clients are asking advice quicker, the demand from turnaround time is getting shorter, there are more cases to handle and less time per case. Then there is a whole life outside work which requires your time. In today’s Economic Times, I read an interview by the Supreme Court Justice Dhananjay Chandrachud who says that in order to handle 250 cases every week, he wakes up as early as 3:30 am, Imagine!  Perhaps, if a magic pill could give you ten hours work in two hours, you would give half the arm for that. So much is the value of time. 

By this time, you must be able to correlate some of your professional experiences with those which are highlighted here. The core challenge around delivering ‘value’ to clients that is faced by a practitioner like you is not an isolated problem. It’s really a global problem and some of the world’s largest corporations are trying to solve the challenge. Take for example Bloomberg, Thomson Reuters, LexisNexis. They are all making solutions which would work for tax practitioners of the western world.

What is happening in India? Do you sometimes wonder why as an Indian practitioner you still have first-world challenges to solve with third world technology?  I used to wonder about that all the time. I have many global corporations as clients who have always been serviced by first world law firms and they expect the same proficiency from me. Yet my tools are limited.

That’s where a tool like Riverus can help.

I have sought to create something which works on two most precious ‘values’ that you could deliver to your clients viz., ‘time savings’ and ‘insight’. Even when you are an individual practitioner or a member of a comparatively smaller firm, your aspiration to deliver value to your set of clients is a genuine aspiration. It is something that needs to be addressed. Therefore, in designing the Riverus Research Map, I have tried to keep in mind that the solution has to be easily understood by all of us viz., the practitioners’ community and must be economically accessible.

Even with what I have built so far for you, I must admit there are a lot of challenges remaining to be solved. A customer of ours asked me yesterday whether I can create a solution which could automate tax audit reports. She does annually more than 1000 tax audits. I get excited to hear such a problem and the sheer value that technology can deliver if it could solve the problem. I am very fortunate to have a team which loves to push the boundaries of what is possible. I told my customer why not! We will give it a spin in months to come.

As we keep working towards solving your most difficult problems, I promise to keep our solutions easily available to all of you. Come and experience how technology can help you deliver “value” – the real X factor in your professional journey.  

Try out Riverus’ Research Map today for free

And why not – it’s Diwali time! Irrespective of religion and region, the festival of light brings hope that we will be able to wipe out every bit of darkness from our community and our country.

Wishing Happy Diwali to everyone in advance.

Written by Dipankar Bandyopadhyay, Founder @ Riverus

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