The Legal Executive Institute is excited to feature Heena Bhambhlani, Director & Mumbai Head of Litigation Solutions at Thomson Reuters’ Legal Managed Services (formerly Pangea3). In this interview, Heena discusses her career journey in the “new/alternative legal services” industry and the abundance of opportunities to excel.
Legal Executive Institute: Could you tell us a bit about your current role and your career journey up to this point?
Heena Bhambhlani: In my current role, I serve as the subject matter expert and the go-to person for advice on litigation and industry-specific related issues, and for ensuring that my department at large is well-trained on all subjects. I am responsible for continuing the growth of the department, which includes:
- maintaining tight control of individual projects and engagements;
- nurturing existing client relationships and developing new ones;
- managing the overall client experience, including corporate governance, monitoring and meeting service-level agreements (SLAs);
- overseeing the day-to-day operations of the department in close coordination with sales, finance, marketing, talent acquisition and engagement, administration, information technology, and security teams; and
- developing new products and services.
I joined Pangea3 in 2007, before our acquisition by Thomson Reuters in 2010, and have held eight different job positions since then. I feel that these different roles have been instrumental in giving me a holistic understanding of the work we do — spending a year or so in each role has made me understand the perks as well as challenges that each position offers.
In my current role, it helps me better understand and relate to the challenges that my juniors now face because I was in that place a few years ago. Pangea3 was my first job, and I feel like a home-grown kid who has learned to master the skills of her art through thorough mentoring, guidance, and support from numerous people over the course of my career.
What have been the pivotal career moments that put you on a different path than the one you first had when you finished law school?
Law is in my genes as my dad is a practicing lawyer in Mumbai, India. Just a couple of weeks after I graduated from law school, I received an interview call from Pangea3. Since I had never faced a job interview in my life, I went only for the experience. I remembered being extremely nervous and intimidated as the concept of alternative legal services seemed novel and unconventional. Fortunately, I cleared the interview and joined the company as an associate.
Moving into a managerial role and then into the head role have been some of the most memorable turning points of my career. I still remember the Saturday morning when my boss (who is also my best mentor and guide) called to congratulate me and tell me I was chosen to be the Mumbai Head of Litigation. I had tears of joy as all of the efforts, dedication, patience, and excellence that I learned here came together perfectly to help me bag this dream role.
The opportunities that this job has provided to colleagues and to me are endless:
- Working and partnering with large corporate legal departments and global law firms — I have the opportunity to work closely and partner with legal organizations from the world’s largest financial institutions and Fortune 500 companies, as well as with leading law firms in US, UK, Australia, and Asia-Pacific (APAC) regions on some of the most complex and high-profile litigations and investigations.
- Key skills development — This role has helped me better my legal analytical capabilities, communication, people, and client management skills. I understand the significant role of technology in our day-to-day work and run a department of hundreds of the most talented attorneys with yearly multi-million-dollar financial targets. I had certainly never even imagined any of this in law school.
- Secondment — One other pivotal career moment was the secondment opportunity to work at a client site in New York for a couple of months each in two consecutive years. That was the first time I had lived thousands of miles away from family and friends for months at a time, lived alone in a new country, and worked in a different culture. I was often referred to at the client site as Pangea3/Legal Managed Services as opposed to Heena. This would make me feel proud because I was representing hundreds of colleagues back home in India who continued to work very hard to delight that specific client. Overall, it was a great learning experience.
What are some of the obstacles you have faced in your legal career? How have you overcome them?
Being taken seriously at times is one of the major obstacles that I face — this probably has to do with age, gender, a specific personality type, or a combination of them. The other obstacle is dealing with clients who may be skeptical or cold, especially at the outset, on how a team of attorneys based in a different geographical location will be able to pick up on the nuances associated with their work.
Over the course of time, I have learned that the best way to tackle both of these obstacles is to let me and my team’s work do all the talking — true grit, real substance, and the right attitude ultimately always shine through!
What are a few pieces of career guidance you would give to your younger self?
Change is the only constant — be it changes in the market, processes, or technology — one has to be continually abreast of these changes and flexible enough to evolve based on these changes.
The beauty of long-lasting working relationships based on mutual understanding, respect, and trust is one of the best things that a professional can have. At times, my emotional side takes over especially when long-standing colleagues move on, but I have now realized that the best way to attract talent and good people is committing to them that you will help them grow and develop. That means you get to work with some amazing people, but you have to accept that trying different things is what talented people do. In the end, the best part of being a leader is watching people grow and become great.
Last, but perhaps most importantly, is always follow your instincts. Some things and arrangements may seem perfect on paper but if you think that they will not fit in with your overall goal of happiness, learning, and growth, then do not think twice before walking away.
Ultimately, you are your biggest commitment, and if you are not happy, then it will eventually reflect in the work that you do.