Zia Mody: the Indian woman of steel in the world of Law

When one thinks of corporate law, Zia Mody is amongst the first few names that come up and rightly so. She is one of the country’s foremost corporate attorney, having set up practice as the ‘Chambers of Zia Mody’ in 1984.

Her individual practice went on to become the largely popular AZB & Partners in 2004. Today the firm enjoys a corporate presence in Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore and Delhi with Zia Mody, residing as the founder and the senior partner.

Mody’s life before setting up practice in India:

Zia Mody’s early life is nothing but illustrious. She is the daughter of the former attorney-general of India, Soli Sorabjee. Thus ever since childhood, she had enriching exposure to the world of law.

Bachelors of Arts (Law) from Cambridge and an LLM from Harvard gave her the right academic background to pursue Law ahead. She kick-started her career in Baker & Mckenzie, New York in 1979. She worked here as a corporate associate for 5 years.

An incident from her early years in New York throws light on the fearlessly determined person Mody was right from the outset.

She once faced an encounter with a thief on the streets of New York who mugged her bag and started running away. Instead of getting all frightened, she took off her high heels, started running after him and got hold of him and her bag, yelling for the cops to come to arrest him.

This was despite the bag not carrying any monetarily valuable items – she recalls she was shocked at her own behaviour. However, this shows Inventiva just the person she is. To never give up and to stand for the right!

In fact, even since her pre-teen years, Mody showed immense courage and positivity. Her father recalls that as a child, she would love to horse-ride at the Amateur Riders Club in Mumbai.

Another horse tried to kick Mody’s which in turn caught her ankle. Her father recalls Mody as falling off and breaking her ankle. He, naturally like any perplexed father asked his 11-year-old child to quit riding.

However, what came back from the passionate little girl was truly inspiring – “Why?” “Falling once doesn’t mean falling off every time.”

For Mody, it was her father that she learnt law from. However, as for really making her the go-getter she is, she recalls her mother playing an immensely important role.

Even as a child, her mother only demanded success from her and shaped her to do the same of herself. “If I didn’t come first in what I was taking part, I was told by my mother to not bother telling them where I had placed.”

Today Mody specializes in Merger & Acquisitions, Securities Law and process outsourcing legalities etc.

She has served as a counsel for over 10 years in Indian courts and is a New York State Bar member. She sits on boards of companies such as HSBC and Cambridge Research Foundation.

Her awards and recognitions include among many others, the India Managing Partner of the Year – 2016” (by Asian Legal Business) and Financial Express Knowledge Professional of the Year.

Take names of some of business giants that rarely comment even when bombarded by reporters and interview requests. These are inherently ready with outright applause when asked about Mody.

It is indeed the specialized legal expertise, she’s helped the largest companies with, that make her so revered by all. Again, it boils down to the person she is herself, and how much of her own she brings to the table.

Cyrus Mistry – chairman of Tata conglomerate said “Mody’s accessibility round the clock is “a huge value-add”.

In fact, Mr Ambani himself talks about his 20-year-old interactions with this superwoman.

He says “She has, “the ability to distil a business issue and offer an integrated global, social, and sustainable view. And she’s blunt about it.” “She’s much more than just a lawyer,”.

When it comes to law, many vouch there is no one quite like her.

She has fought even the trickiest of cases and shined through. The trickiest ones were where 2 parties had to be brought into an agreement on the table. East India Hotels and Reliance and UTV and Disney were amongst these she recalls.

Mody ‘s AZB is distinct in its approach such that she wants to reshape what’s been going on in the space since time immemorial.

Most of her competitors are age-old, some even tracing back to centuries, for instance, the Khaitan and Co and the Amarchand Mangaldas companies.

However, they have started and remained as largely family-owned firms even today. Even after the split, for instance, the Amarchand Mangaldas companies shall always remain with the Shroffs.

Mody doesn’t want AZB to be one of them. Mody too could have joined her father on her return to India but chose to start her own firm instead. In fact, she even appeared in court against him a few times.

She does want to leave behind a legacy with AZB…but one of a strong law firm…as opposed to that of a family oriented one.

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