1. Practical law
Lawyer Pria Chetty completed her degree in 2000, specialising in e-commerce, Internet and intellectual property law. Her goal was to make the law practical and to take into account the needs of a new breed of business driven by innovation and technology.
2. Small town learnings
She did her articles in the coal mining, maize farming town of Balfour in Mpumalanga where she worked with an ex-magistrate. From him she learnt about the integrity of the profession and the value of the relationship of trust between client and attorney.
3. The lure of IT
At the end of those 12 months, she went to Johannesburg to work for Buys, Inc, a firm that was setting the standards in IT law at the time. From the start, she made it clear that she intended to set up her own practice. During her four years at Buys, she came across people working in the open source space and had the opportunity to engage in debates around proprietary versus OS software.
“That’s what really prompted me to want to do more than run a purely legal practice,” she says. “My goal was to integrate law with policy and regulation in the IT space. I always wanted to be in the company of innovators and people who were pushing technology boundaries. This gave me access to them.”
4. Rebel with a cause
She launched Chetty Law in 2007, taking the leap into tech law at a time when no-one else was paying too much attention to what was happening in the online world from a legal perspective. Today, a mere five years down the line, things are very different. Seen as a maverick at the time, she made a brave choice which has paid off.
5. Making a name
“We developed a unique offering. At some point we realised that when people thought tech law, they were thinking Chetty Law,” says Chetty. “By that stage there were four attorneys in the firm. We did no marketing, but we had an excellent website and were prominent in the thought leadership space, which meant that the tech journalists were always interested in what we had to say. We never shied away from difficult questions as lawyers often do.”
What enticed PwC
Chetty Law grew a large network of highly attractive clients, so much so that in mid-2011 the firm attracted the attention of consulting giant PwC, which was keen to start a technology advisory practice within the organisation.
“When PwC approached us, the attraction was that we could define and establish a legal advisory practice within the organisation. We would never have made the move if it was just about being absorbed into another practice.”
Chetty says the skills her team brings are rare, enabling PwC to leapfrog competitors in the market. “We are now able to collaborate with PwC’s broader tech advisory team, as many of their services hinge on legal questions and parameters. We also have access to leaders in tech practices around the world. It’s a real game changer for us and means that PwC has access to the legal side of technology within the organisation itself, so its offering is truly holistic.”