“My philosophy is sharing everything. Don’t hold back. When you make your junior better than you, you cannot imagine the joy it gives you.”
When Lakshmikumaran studied law it was not to become a lawyer. But simply because he was unable to understand the legal terminologies that the lawyers he was working with used. “I was an assistant collector with the Indian Revenue Service (IRS). And had to deal with lawyers and they would use a lot of legal jargon. So I decided to study law in order to understand what they are talking about. I never thought I would actually go into law,” says Lakshmikumaran. Little did he know that fate had other plans.
Fate’s mechanizations started when Lakshmikumaran, a thoroughbred Tamil – complete with his caste mark clearly drawn on his forehead – was transferred from Chennai to Delhi in 1980. “I was posted to Delhi as Undersecretary. I used to brief Attorney General K. Parasaran. One day he said ‘you have legal acumen. Become a lawyer. You will do well’,” he explains.
Egged on by Parasaran, Lakshmikumaran quit his government job in ’85 and, along with his younger brother Sridharan, who was already a practicing lawyer, set up shop in a one-room apartment in the heart of New Delhi’s Safdarjung Enclave. The brothers had decided that the country’s capital was to be their karmbhoomi as they were basically practicing in indirect taxes, and the Customs Tribunal is in Delhi. Eventually in 1999, heavy workload saw Sridharan move to Mumbai when the firm, Lakshmikumaran & Sridharan (L&S), opened its first office outside Delhi.
Success was not too difficult to come by – not when diligence, industry and punctuality are the hallmarks of your endeavor. “My ideal has been K. Parasaran – the way he would take pain to analyse, the way he prepares. When you want him in the court, he is there. We adopted the same values. And I think that helped us succeed,” says Lakshmikumaran.
On the home front there was infallible support. His wife, Dr. Malathi, is his Rock of Gibraltar. “My wife is more qualified than I am. She is a recognized national-level, award-wining scientist. But she managed everything during the initial stages – no complaints,” says Lakshmikumaran with understandable pride. Dr. Malathi, a PhD in Biochemistry, has headed the Centre for Bioresource & Biotechnology Division in, The Energy and Resource Institute (TERI). The much-awarded and honored Dr. Malathi now heads the life science group at the intellectual property division of the firm.
With one parent a successful lawyer and the other an outstanding scientist, the choice of career must not have been easy to make for the Lakshmikumaran children. What is interesting is that both Badri Narayan and Charanya took up science but eventually ended up doing law! Daughter Charanya became a biochemist like her mother but then decided to study law and is presently specializing in customs. Ivy Leaguer, Badri, before taking up law at Cornell Univeristy, studied physics.
Given the success, happy clients are a given. But happy employees and partners is a rare feather in a firm’s cap. With zero attrition, especially in the top and middle levels, all those who started with L&S in the ‘80s are still continuing with the firm even today. In today’s dog-eat-dog market, such loyalty is hard to come by. However, if one were to follow his philosophy, it is not entirely an elusive situation, says Lakshmikumaran. “My philosophy is sharing everything. Don’t hold back. When you make your junior better than you, you cannot imagine the joy it gives you,” advocates the ace lawyer.
An erudite scholar and a connoisseur of both Hindustani and Carnatic music, Lakshmikumaran’s day starts in the wee hours of the morning at 4 a.m., with the Gayatri Mantra. And like many a Tamil Brahmin he is very religious and spiritual. “From childhood I have learnt to have faith in God. I have in-depth knowledge of the scriptures that are relevant even today. I know many by heart and I follow them in my day-to-day dealings,” declares Lakshmikumaran.
Listening to him, one would think Lakshmikumaran is very somber. But his family says otherwise. “My father loves to go shopping with us. He especially very cool and hardly ever loses his temper,” claims Charanya. One wonders how he manages to stay unruffled in today’s competitive world, where strife and war is the name of the game. Lakshmikumaran explains, “The scriptures actually help you look at the world and people from a different place. It teaches about the futility of being angry and how to smile under extreme provocation.”
Well said, advocate. We rest our case.