External Relations - Nitin Bhatia
Written by: Elizabeth Jun
Photography by: Austin Yee
As seen in the February 2018 Lazy Faire issue
This month, Lazy Faire had the chance to speak with Nitin Bhatia. Nitin was born and raised in Edmonton, attended the ASoB for his BCom in Business Economics and Law, and went on to study law, also at the University of Alberta. He began, and continues to practice law in Edmonton, and has been instrumental in co-founding and managing the regional law firm Shourie Bhatia LLP. He has taught at the ASoB and currently teaches at the UofA Faculty of Law.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I’ve been a serial entrepreneur since I was about 12. In high school I started a promotions company that turned into a DJ services company. It became a “gig” that paved the way for a lot of things throughout my university career; for example, it was a nice way to meet people, generate a network of people and businesses, and, of course, make some money. In my first year in business school, I got into e-commerce through an online entertainment portal, but was short-lived, but it was my first real venture into the “tech space” and marketing.
In some ways this led to me becoming very interested in marketing in the real estate sphere. That’s where I started getting into real estate development and acquisition. I got involved in everything as small as residential condos to purchasing parcels of land and creating syndicates to leverage acquisitions. Doing that through business school really had me in gear for being a business owner, applying basic business fundamentals — some of which, were gained from classes taken at the ASoB — and knowing how to operate on a practical business level.
How did you get to starting your own practice?
After law school, I articled with a local law firm but I found that, despite making reasonable money, I wasn’t getting rewarded from a career or personal enrichment point of view. I happened to be approached by another lawyer who was looking to open up a practice and he mentioned that along with needing a partner for the legal end, he needed help on the business side of things. That’s when the lightbulb kind of clicked. I thought to myself “I have the legal skill set, and I also have the desire to own, operate and grow a business from the ground up like I always have,” so this became an opportunity to attain that “enrichment.”
We started out in 2010 as a team of two lawyers and an assistant. Now, about eight years later, we are 10 lawyers and 11 staff strong, and busier than ever.
What are some of the highlights of running your own business?
If you’re a business junkie, or a deal junkie, the highs and lows are what keep you going. The highs would include landing the first big client, and now it’s not just the first big client, its every client. It doesn’t matter what the size, every time you close a deal or get someone to sign on saying they’ve hired you, it brings you a certain amount of joy. Profit of course has its place, but getting validated by someone saying “we want you” is extremely satisfying.
Would you change anything about how you got to where you are now?
I think I was a little too bold in the risks I took early on, and it put me in the type of debt that I shouldn’t have been in. I was generally financially responsible, but when you’re riding the high of success in business, you’re young with little grey hair, you start to get a feeling of invincibility. You start to think you’re smart enough to navigate through any problem, even ones you have no control over. Take risks, but be smart about it, and be confident that you can get out of it. Hard to tell if I would change anything at all, because the journey had a number of lessons that I value today.
Do you have any advice for ASoB students hoping to pursue law?
Go in with an open mind. Having a business background can help you in so many ways, not just in becoming a corporate or commercial lawyer. A lot of people in business school come out of classes thinking after law school “I’m going to be the next Harvey Specter”, or “I’m going to close these multi-million dollar deals and get rich”, but this is so far from the truth of how the field works. It is a challenging field, but a rewarding career if you can make the most of it.
University is a place for you to learn about what you like to do, you don’t need to worry from day one about what you’re going to do for the rest of your life, there is plenty of time for you to figure that out.