Zia Mody: An Iconic Woman Winning her Way through Law & Life

Zia Mody
Zia Mody

A popular writer, William Arthur Ward, once said, “If you can dream, you can achieve it.”
Let us hear the story of a renowned lawyer who has turned these words into reality. Let us hear the story of Zia Mody, a prominent personality redefining justice. Following the footsteps of her father, Mr. Soli Sorabjee, she is setting benchmarks in the world of law. Zia is very passionate about her work and believes in never giving up. Being a hard-worker and an enthusiast, she is, today, recognized as one of the top-most lawyers in the country as well as internationally. Zia is the founding partner of AZB & Partners, a leading Indian law firm.
To highlight the story of this brilliant leader, we are glad to feature her in this issue of ours. To know more about her absorbing journey and drive inspiration from her thoughts, we bring to you an exclusive interview with Zia Mody.
1.Brief us about you and your journey since the beginning of your career.
I did my law at Cambridge and thereafter my Masters in Law at Harvard. I came back and began appearing as a Junior Counsel and practiced at the Bar for about 10 years. I then started my own boutique law firm called the ‘Chambers of Zia Mody’. It was a joyous journey. We debated non-stop about legal propositions at the time when India was rising, which became the wind beneath our seals. I think my own skill was in running the firm to be fair, transparent and communicate as much as I could. I think the goal is to have a moral leadership, which is imperative to be a leader. Now, we are a PAN India law firm – AZB & Partners, a law firm of over 430 lawyers.
2.Could you name a person/mentor/book that has had a tremendous impact on your journey? When did you decide to become a lawyer? Why?
My entrepreneurial journey continues. I still take a lot of joy in new practices, new talent coming to AZB and lifting us to even higher levels. My father is one person who has had great impact on ensuring my value system in the profession. I decided to follow my father’s professional footsteps from a very young age. He has had a significant impact on my choice of the legal career. My husband is the one who has ensured the success of my entrepreneurial journey.
3.What did you expect from a career in the law?
A fascinating future where every day presents a new issue, which needs a new nuanced solution.
4.Is it more challenging being a woman in the legal market? How do you maintain a balance within your career and home, so seamlessly?
Yes, it is surely more challenging. The inherent bias in favour of men to argue a client’s case in court still persists. Not much has improved. However, when it comes to non-contentious work, women are far more recognised and visible, especially in general corporate practice.
As for maintaining a balance between career and home, it is almost impossible.
5.What is the one thing that keeps you motivated? To what do you attribute your success?
My curious passion.
I attribute my success to my hard work, my ability to see and remember hundred things at a time, my intensity to want to be perfect and in the quality of advice I have to give several times a day, in the role of my trusted advisor to my key clients.
6.Tell us about your passions, aims, and goals. Tell us about your major achievements.
My passion is to continue to raise my own bar. My goal is to institutionalise the firm and create a clear gap between AZB and other law firms.
Some of my major achievements are:

  • Growing a 12 lawyer boutique to a top tier law firm of over 400 lawyers;
  • Developing a reputation that puts us at the top of the legal landscape; and
  • Expanding the litigation practice to a new level7.What is the biggest risk you have ever taken? What have been some of your failures, and what have you learned from them?

The biggest career risk I have ever taken is to leave my job as a corporate associate in New York and come back to India to get married, not knowing whether I will succeed in this profession, which was at that time clearly male dominated.
Some of my failures have been the inability to think long term, to react negatively to situations, which were partly caused by myself and to not listen enough to some people who gave me advice for my own good. What I have learnt is to listen to people who genuinely have my interest at their heart.
8.What differences do you see in today’s legal market compared to when you started?
A far more sophisticated practice, intense regulatory intervention and interaction.
9.Kindly tell us about the major challenges you have faced while building up your career.
Too much work, too little quiet time.
10.What led you to start AZB & Partners?
A combination of the happy coincidence of India opening up its investment shores and we returning to India to see it grow. The journey of AZB & Partners started almost 25 years ago as a small boutique consisting of about 12 people, which was called the Chambers of Zia Mody. Much has happened since then and we are now a PAN India Law Firm with over 400 lawyers. The bedrock behind starting a boutique law firm and its journey was to create a value proposition and provide services of a uniquely responsive and thoughtful nature.
11.What are the services your organisation provides, describe in detail?
We are a law firm with offices across India and about 430 lawyers. We are considered an M&A powerhouse and one-stop shop which provides our clients services across all major practice areas such Private Equity, Banking & Finance, Capital Markets, Investment Funds, Financial Services and Fintech, Forensic, etc. Our Firm is considered one of the top 2 law firms in India.
12.What law would you change, abolish or create?
Archaic laws, which have outlined their utility.
13.Tell us about the most memorable and remarkable moments of your life.
When I was a junior counsel, fighting away in various courts, learning how to dance in court and develop a quick presence of mind.
14.How do you describe yourself in one-word or one-sentence?
Intensely passionate and eternally curious.
15.What would you advise to the budding lawyers?
My advice to the budding lawyers is stay honest to your core, work hard, be persistent and never give up.

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