You are currently viewing The Business Side Of Law: Farhat Ali Khan Of Century Maxim International On 5 Things You Need To Create Or Lead A Successful Law Firm

Law school primarily prepares lawyers for the practice of law. But leading or starting a law firm requires so much more than that. It requires the entrepreneurial skills that any CEO would need to run a business; How to manage personnel, how to hire and fire, how to generate leads, how to advertise, how to manage finances, etc. On the business side of law, what does an attorney need to know to create a successful and thriving law practice? To address these questions, we are talking to successful law firm principals who can share stories and insights from their experience about the “5 Things You Need To Create Or Lead A Successful Law Firm”.

Farhat Ali Khan is the Managing Partner of Century Maxim International Ltd. (“CMI”) an ADGM registered Legal Consultancy Firm that has been designed to provide boutique legal solutions. He is a B.A.LL.B (Hons.) from the University of Lucknow, India and LLM in International Business Law from Middlesex University. Farhat is a seasoned legal professional with over 16 years of experience having worked in the capacity of a Legal Advisor/In-House Legal Counsel(s) with leading organizations across industries and has been managing CMI for over 03 years now.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you ended up where you are? Specifically we’d love to hear the story of how you began to lead your practice.

While exploring career opportunities between school and university and picking the right academics to build a professional path, choosing law as a career was the outcome of a personal situation back then. Quiet early in adulthood life I got an experience of the legal system, attending court cases and managing comprehensive paperwork to protect our family property. During this period, I was closely associated with a very senior lawyer, who also happened to be a family friend and was advising us on our legal case. I observed him from close quarters, and it somewhere piqued an interest in law as an career option, moving away from the traditional choice of engineering course which I was initially keen to pursue.

As a first-generation lawyer, entering the field and creating a strong foundation for myself was a little daunting but I was determined to make a mark. Fresh out of law school, my first resort was to venture into litigation. It was indeed testing times because for the initial two years as a junior/ trainee lawyer, I lacked monetary stability to a point that it may be considered nil income in the first 2 years. It was difficult to go on with my practice before the Court without having financial independence and so with the primary objective of improving my financial prospects, I decided to transition to the corporate sector. After months of perseverance and determination, a great opportunity knocked my door and I welcomed it with open arms. In fact, the opportunity was such that led to my association with the respective corporate for over 4 years.

Happy to share that I entered the legal corporate world as a junior legal officer and since then there has been no looking back.

The corporate legal sector has given me both professional growth and financial stability where I have had the privilege of providing legal consultation to seven major corporates as an in-house counsel in a span of about 13 years. Which ultimately led to me taking the leap of faith and pursuing my own practice by setting up CMI in 2019.

I’m a huge fan of mentorship throughout one’s career. None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Who has been your biggest mentor? What was the most valuable lesson you learned from them?

As mentioned earlier my first mentor was the very senior lawyer, who was also a family friend. I was always in awe of him as he was highly educated from premium educational institutes back in India and a well-respected legal professional in my hometown. I learned a lot about law and how to put forth one’s views in an effective manner. His knowledge and communication skills always inspired me, and I imbibed some of these qualities, which helped me grow at a much faster rate in my legal career.

As a professional, learning, developing, and training under different leaderships is all part of your learning curve. I am obliged to the first senior lawyer I assisted back in the day when I used to appear before the Courts in India. While he may not have been able to support me financially, however, he helped me enhance my academic standpoint.

Following my transition to the corporate sector, it was the strong knowledge base that helped me enhance my profile and achieve stable growth. I have been fortunate to have worked with inspiring leaders, who are not afraid to impart the right skill set and knowledge to their juniors. It was this working with such thought-provoking and encouraging leaders that further brought about the zeal to venture out and walk my own path.

So, for me, the most valuable life lesson is that knowledge sharing is fruitful for both the person sharing and its recipient.

From completing your degree to opening a practice and becoming a business owner, your path was most likely challenging. Can you share a story about one of your greatest struggles? Can you share what you did to overcome it?

To be honest, the most trying time for me has been the initial phase of my career. Straight out of law school, having no financial stability while trying to make a name for myself. It was difficult and made me question whether choosing law was the right choice for me or not. In fact, even the transition to corporate was not an easy task. I wanted to do management studies to get some edge but the high fee structure for these courses was a restraint.

However, it all worked out and all is well that ends well.

Back in the day, when applying for a corporate role, one of the major fallouts was their preference for juniors/ trainees from National Law Universities or a premier Law College. If I am not mistaken, the trend continues to date. Nonetheless, I did find a breakthrough and successfully entered the corporate world. From getting my foot in the door as a junior officer at a big corporate house to starting my own legal consultancy firm, I am proud to see the culmination of CMI’s growth journey so far. Today, we are successfully operating out of India and UAE, with plans to further venture into other global markets as well.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story about how that was relevant in your own life?

As I always tell my teammates, “Learn to beat the clock”. The objective is to surprise the client with the completion of the assignment before the committed period, it is good to see the client responding back happily that … oh this was quick…, of course, this is supported by the idea to maintain and upkeep the discipline mechanism at work that is supported by flexibility as well, means you may be busy one evening but the next morning you can feel relaxed at the workplace.

I would like to share a personal experience here that pertains to seeking an appointment with a lawyer. In our profession as an in-house counsel, when contacting an external legal advisor, the response would usually come the next day, certain times the lawyer is available only the next week for a meeting. This was for me an opportunity to work on in order to make legal services accessible on quick a turnaround.

Therefore, as a legal professional, I make a conscious effort to be available for clients and be accommodating with requests (something that can be built upon by way of work flexibility). We need to build internal standards whereby we provide definite commitments (based on realistic delivery targets or estimations). We need to remodel our approach in a way that is feasible for both professionals and clients.

This is not easy work. What is your primary motivation and drive behind the work that you do?

The key to a successful venture is to have the right team in place. My team members play a crucial role in building what started out as a single-person venture. The vision is to keep growing and contribute to the legal industry by setting new standards and practices.

At CMI we endeavor to create an ecosystem where every lawyer in the system (whether junior or senior) is given a platform to build and enhance independent value. Unlike the conventional law firm culture, we encourage the team to build their own niche. And that subject to their commitment and achievement of set targets, we ensure that the earnings are not compromised based on the designation.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

To be honest, every new mandate is exciting for me. It gives me the opportunity to understand varied situations and perspectives, and there is so much to learn from each case. It does feel good to be in a position where there is confidence and reliance entrusted to you. All this trust comes with great responsibility and my endeavor as a legal professional is to strive to achieve excellence and the best-suited outcome for the clients. As for a real-time reference, we concluded the year with a mandate of USD 150 million for a share sale transaction, which was followed by a USD 20 million transaction pertaining to a business acquisition.

Fantastic. Let’s now shift to discussing the business of law. Can you tell us a bit about the nature of your practice and what you focus on?

As a legal consultancy firm, CMI is largely involved in dealing with the legal nuances of general corporate and commercial transactions. In addition to the conventional practice desk, we also have a strong hold on certain niche legal practices and are on a continuous journey to keep upgrading.

We offer a bouquet of services which include business acquisitions, restructuring, legal due diligence, and are further building our practice area in digital assets, ESG (environmental, social, and governance), AML (anti-money laundering), and data protection.

We strive to achieve consistent growth both in terms of value and volume. Our foundation is based on trust, and commitment to deliver to the best of our abilities. For us, values, empathy, and compassion are a priority. We envision providing quality services while drawing a balance between succeeding and being empathetic.

You are a successful attorney. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? What unique qualities do you have that others may not? Can you please share a story or example for each?

Two of the most crucial character traits in my opinion would be planning and patience and I firmly believe that the two go hand in hand. Building something from scratch requires an investment that is not restricted to just capital investment but extends to an investment of time, energy, and expertise backed up with patience.

Another important character trait for me is inquisitiveness — the curiosity of my mind is what keeps me going. 16+ years of practice and I feel I am just at the start of my knowledge journey. My mind is constantly churning out new ideas with thoughts and actions to keep advancing and exploring opportunities. I don’t intend to restrict myself to conventional legal practice but instead, I endeavor to venture into the broader spectrum and be a part of the rapid advancements taking place in today’s time.

Do you think where you went to school has any bearing on your success? How important is it for a lawyer to go to a top-tier school?

For years now, national universities and premium law colleges have been dominating the corporate sector, especially when it comes to hiring fresh graduates. This largely affects opportunities for candidates who do not belong to top-tier law schools. While the top-tier institutes do provide a strong foundation for law students, it is unfair to assume that the other institutions do not have strong curriculums. For me personally, it is a candidate’s ability to interpret law combined with legal knowledge and communication skills. Without a doubt, college does play a huge role in the professional front, however, the actual learning is once you enter the real world. So yes, a student’s educational background is important, but that alone cannot be the primary factor determining their career trajectory.

Managing being a law practitioner and a business owner is a constant balancing act. How do you manage both roles?

It is all about collective working — Teamwork! That’s the key to any successful business venture. When the vision and commitment of the company are aligned with that of all its members, the venture is bound to do well. Having a strong team backing me brings about a sense of balance that I have a team that shares the same vision as I do and will support me with timely execution. Whether as a practitioner or business owner, the aspiration is to keep growing, be a successful professional, and be an inspiring leader.

Can you help articulate the entrepreneurial skills a lawyer needs to run and lead a successful law firm?

Team building

It would be to have a clear vision of the outcome one desires to achieve, which should be backed by strong ethics and culture. The idea should be to create a diverse set of services that are supported by top-quality deliverables. In the end, all that matters is how we treat our clients. Legal services are not just another professional service, it carries emotions, compassion, and care for a client. We need to see how a client walks in and we have to work hard to ensure that he goes out content or at least satisfied with the solution and support being offered.

As a business owner you spend most of your time working IN your practice, seeing clients. When and how do you shift to working ON your practice? (Marketing, upgrading systems, growing your practice, etc.) How much time do you spend on the business elements?

Fortunately, very early in life, I learned that networking is what will keep the business going. And with that in mind, I make a conscious choice to divide my time in a manner wherein my service deliverable is of top quality, while also making time for networking and practice expansion. To succeed in today’s day and age, one must invest in both competence and infrastructure. It may be said that elements of competence include enhancing knowledge but alongside conceptual know-how, it is also important to have the right mechanisms in place to stand out in the crowd and reach out to the right audience. Accessibility again plays an important role in a legal professional’s career, who must also work towards being at par with the latest developments whether conceptually or technologically. Therefore, as a business leader, I have a holistic approach — I am actively involved in marketing, digital transformation (whether suggesting to the clients or integrating advanced systems internally), and further developing our practice.

Can you share some specific, non-intuitive insights from your personal experience about how a leader of a law firm should:

Manage personnel: Identifying the right talent based on practical requirements.

Hire and fire: I personally don’t refer to the process as hire or fire, its not a sales job. I rather look at it from the perspective of engaging with a professional for work that suits their respective expertise and should there be a misalignment at work, it could lead to disengagement.

Generate leads: At CMI, we emphasize on work development i.e. mine or the team member’s ability to identify concern(s) and accordingly curate a service offering most suitable in the given situation. We believe in nurturing relationships and that is what has helped CMI build goodwill in the market.

Advertise: It is not merely advertisements but as a legal professional, one is deemed to focus on educating the audience and creating awareness. One of the biggest sources of organic advertising for us is word of mouth. It is the feedback of our work that when shared ahead helps attract organic clientele.

Manage finances: The best way to manage finances for a law firm is by effectively managing its manpower. A great way to do so is by identifying the right talent most suitable for the work.

Ok, thank you. Here is the main question of our interview about the business side of law. What are your “5 Things An Attorney Needs To Know In Order To Create A Successful And Thriving Law Practice”?

Subject Expertise

Client Care




You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Providing a platform for legal professionals to be a part of a journey where they get the opportunity to explore, enhance and create a path that leads to growth and success. I would like to influence the legal fraternity at large to be more empathetic, conscious, and committed toward the client. We need to create a comprehensive culture where we as legal professionals not only provide legal solutions but also adopt a compassionate approach and extend emotional support whenever required.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

My team and I are approachable via LinkedIn or our website –



We would be happy to engage and encourage interactive discussions on the latest legal reforms across the globe.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!

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