“The rule of Law has to keep pace with the challenges thrown up by development and progress.”
Hammurabi and Solomon. It does not reflect its founder’s name nor is it linked to anything personal. It only reflects its initiator’s out-of-the box thoughts. “Hammurabi, the king of Babylon is credited with the first code of law that was ever written and Solomon comes from the Solomon vs. Solomon judgment of 1895 which recognized non-human entities as having a legal personality, paving the way for legal recognition to corporations such as Apple or Reliance of the present day. “Moreover, I did not want a family name for the firm because I was not in law for personal gains,” is what Manoj Kumar, Managing Partner, Hammurabi & Solomon, says to explain this name. The name makes innovation and competitive strategy the corner stone of the firm’s working ethos, adds Manoj.
If not for profit then what was it that brought him to law or if one might say—law to him? “I was looking for a vocation where I could be with the people—be a change and try to bring a change in the system for the better,” is Manoj’s answer to this question. Greatly inspired by Mother Teresa and Mahatma Gandhi, he says, “I never wanted to be a doctor or an engineer. The only entrance exam I took was that of the National Law School. If I hadn’t done law I would be doing any other similar public work.”
Manoj has a penchant for challenges and as per him “law is ever evolving and has newer challenges all along, development and the Rule of law go hand in hand and new laws have to be drafted to enable progress and innovation.” Determined to make a difference, Manoj knew working in the area of policy making would be the best way to fulfill his desire to work for the people. “The Rule of Law has to keep pace with the challenges thrown up by development and progress across sectors and geographies, and I see an acute need of consistent focus on public policy issues to meet this challenge. I realized that this would require consistent focus and help in making of new laws.” He has personally worked on and drafted important legislations on important aspects such as media regulation, outdoor advertising, fast-track commercial courts, civil nuclear liability, statutory regulation and reorganization of the Intelligence Agencies Bill, and the Companies Act & Rules (2013). Manoj is also a visiting fellow of the prestigious Observer Research Foundation (ORF). In fact, he has made quite a name for his expertise in providing cutting edge solutions to often complex regulatory or legal issues faced by top –ranking corporates across sectors and geographies.
Post completion of his baccalaureate, Manoj pursued the BGEI Programme at Harvard Business School. “Since then there has been no turning back. I have witnessed and led the transformation of Corporate Legal Practice for the past decade,” says he with understandable pride. Though “working for the people” was a foregone conclusion for this ace of a lawyer, it was ace jurist and law teacher Dr. N.R. Madhava Menon (who founded the first National Law School) who taught him to practice law with social responsibility. With pro bono work close to his heart, he says” “I have earmarked 15 to 20 percent time for probono work.” Presently as Convenor of the Professional Social Responsibility (PSR) Program for SILF, he heads the initiative of SILF to provide pro-bono legal support to the implementation of United Nations Millennium Development Goals (UNMDGs) in India. He is also responsible for various initiatives in continuing legal education (CLE) or law practitioners, law students and law teachers with various law schools in the SAARC region.
“I believe every Indian should think global. We must have a global vision and SILF has been a good forum or that for the law firm fraternity,” says Manoj, an active member associated with various committees and/or initiatives of various global organizations including the International Bar Association (IBA), United Nations, (UN), The World Bank Group, International Finance Corporation (IFC), International Legal Advocacy Network (ILAN), Global Science & Technology Forum, Advocates for International Development (A4ID), Trustlaw, Thinkers 50, Institute of Competitiveness, Porter Prize (in India), ORF, GovernanceNow, PSU Awards, Bar Association of India, India Unites Foundation, Delhi Bar Association, Delhi High Court Bar Association, National Highway Builders Federation, India Outdoor Advertising Association (IOAA), and A-SEVI & Humana (people to people), both NGOs, to name a few. Manoj’s contribution to these organizations has been immense. Yet he is quick to point out that “foreign law firms should only be allowed after a proper regulatory structure is put into place in India to enable a level playing field.”
While on the professional front there is little chance of finding fault with Manoj, on the personal side too he is quite the ideal son and family man. “Manoj is a very hands on father. My work takes me away from home from time to time. He manages very well,” says wife Shweta, a Senior Partner at Hammurabi & Solomon and a Chair with the Inter-Pacific Bar Association (IPBA) and General Secretary of the Society of Women Lawyers herself. Manoj’s life partner in spite of her MBAs took up law after her marriage. Like her husband, she too, is an alumnus of Harvard Business School. Heading the dispute resolution and litigation practice of the firm for more than a decade, Shweta has been dealing with dispute resolution needs of the firm’s valued clients and was awarded the coveted Ideas Exchange award for the Best Dispute Management Lawyer in India for 2014.
Although, their marriage was an arranged one, the couple says they fell in love instantly. They have two daughters, 9 years old Manasvi and 7 years old Yashasvi and going by Manoj’s words “they are quite a handful.” Law is not the only connection they share. Their love or travel and cinema brings them together too. “Manoj is a big fan of Amitabh Bachchan and believes every movie is worth seeing once,” confides Shweta. Interestingly, while on one hand Manoj is a man of the times, on the other the values given by his parents make him a good traditionalist. He is not only religious but also a believer in astrology. He not only practices all the four navaratras but has also built a huge temple in his village near Benares.
However, his faith in no way makes him dogmatic. In fact, he is helping the Russian Orthodox Church to come into India just the same way he helped the Hare Krishna movement during the Bhagwad Gita banning controversy in Russia in the city of Tomsk.
Whether with God or with family, this busy lawyer always find time to connect. While he does so, we may say that he himself is a Godsend for those seeking relief through law.