“Coordinating with external counsel, ensuring timely communication, and maintaining consistency in legal strategies are crucial aspects that require careful attention”- Saswata Banerjee, Chief Manager Legal and Compliance at Bajaj Allianz Life Insurance Co. Ltd.

This Interview has been published by Pragya Chandni and The SuperLawyer Team

Can you share more about the pivotal moment when you decided to shift from your initial aspirations in Economics towards pursuing a career in law? What influenced this decision the most?

Being a first generation lawyer from my family I had no idea about the field of law. So back in 2004 after my plus 2 exam completion during the break time I came across a friend who was  appearing for law entrance exam for Calcutta University and NUJS as at that time there was no CLAT. While talking with him on a regular basis I got a glimpse of the legal world and got really interested in the field of law and was intrigued by the court proceedings. I decided to appear for the entrance exam with a short preparation and got selected. By God’s will started the journey into the field of law. Also my family members immensely supported me in this decision.

Your journey into law began with appearing for the law entrance exam at the insistence of a friend. How did you feel when you were selected, and how did that moment shape your perspective on your future career?

When I got selected I was elated that I was getting a chance to be a lawyer. It really shaped my career as well as my family life also as I met my wife in law college who was a very good friend at  that time. Though my college was not a National University but the faculty members were good and really passionate in teaching, I am always grateful to them for their guidance. 

Interning under the guidance of Mr. Sajal Kanti Biswas seems to have been a transformative experience for you. Could you elaborate on how his mentorship influenced your understanding of the legal profession and shaped your career trajectory?

Firstly, Mr. Biswas provided me with invaluable hands-on experience by allowing me to directly involve myself in live cases. This exposure to real-world legal scenarios, including discussions with clients, preparation of pleadings, and strategizing for upcoming cases, was instrumental in enhancing my interest and deepening my understanding of various legal principles and procedures. Being immersed in the practical aspects of the legal profession under his mentorship helped me bridge the gap between theoretical knowledge gained in law school and its practical application in the field.He taught me to value every task in law, stressing that no work is small. . 

Specializing in the BFSI sector after completing your law degree is quite intriguing. What motivated this decision, and how did your experience at the B School of Insurance and Risk Management in Hyderabad contribute to your professional growth?

Specializing in the BFSI (Banking, Financial Services, and Insurance) sector started  from my observations while practicing law after completing my BALLB degree. Initially, as a newcomer to the legal profession, I found the complexities of financial matters daunting. However, exposure to numerous banking and insurance cases in court intrigued me, sparking an interest in the field. Recognizing the need for specialization, I considered pursuing an LLM. During my research, I discovered a joint course offered by NALSAR and IIRM specifically tailored for lawyers seeking to specialize in finance and capital markets. Although I missed the deadline for this program, my eagerness to pursue further studies led me to explore other options. This quest led me to the B School of Insurance and Risk Management (IIRM) in Hyderabad, where I found specialized courses in Risk Management. Despite not initially planning for this specialization, I applied for the program and was selected after successfully completing the entrance test.

At IIRM, I gained valuable knowledge and skills in risk management within the BFSI sector. Interacting with industry experts and peers broadened my perspective. Overall, my time at IIRM complimented my legal background and prepared me for a successful career in the BFSI sector.

Joining ICICI Lombard GIC Ltd. marked the beginning of your corporate legal career. Can you walk us through the challenges you faced initially and how you managed to adapt to your role within the corporate legal team?

Joining ICICI Lombard GIC Ltd. marked a significant shift in my career as I transitioned into the corporate legal field. Initially, I encountered several challenges as a fresher in this new environment. Each day presented a new learning opportunity, and I had to adapt quickly to the workings of a corporate legal team.

One of the major challenges I faced was understanding the dynamics of corporate operations and the intricacies of corporate law. However, my reporting managers provided unwavering support, guiding me through various tasks such as drafting notices, agreements, and participating in complex contract negotiations. Their mentorship was invaluable in helping me navigate the complexities of corporate legal work.

Additionally, my role required frequent interactions with external lawyers for advisory purposes. These interactions exposed me to a wide range of legal concepts and furthered my understanding of corporate law. 

Despite initially feeling overwhelmed, I persevered and focused on honing my skills. With dedication and continuous learning, I gained confidence and successfully closed numerous contracts. This experience taught me resilience, adaptability, and the importance of continuous growth in corporate law. My time at ICICI Lombard GIC Ltd. laid a solid foundation for my corporate legal career.

Transitioning from litigation practice to corporate litigation presented its own set of challenges. What were some of the most significant hurdles you encountered during this transition, and how did you overcome them?

Transitioning from litigation practice to corporate litigation management presented several significant challenges. One of the most notable hurdles was adapting to the different approach required in corporate litigation, which involves more strategic planning and coordination with practicing lawyers for execution.

Initially, I had to familiarize myself with the nuances of corporate litigation management, which differed considerably from my previous experience in court. This required me to understand the broader strategic objectives of the company and align them with the legal strategies employed in litigation matters.

Additionally, collaborating effectively with practicing lawyers across various courts and jurisdictions was essential but posed its own challenges. Coordinating with external counsel, ensuring timely communication, and maintaining consistency in legal strategies were crucial aspects that required careful attention. I prioritized building strong relationships with external counsel and maintained open communication channels. By embracing a learning mindset and adapting proactively, I effectively managed litigation matters.

Your experience at Star India Pvt Ltd. provided insights into media laws. How did this experience differ from your previous roles, and what were the key takeaways for you in terms of navigating legal challenges in the media industry?

Transitioning to Star India Pvt Ltd. from my previous roles in the BFSI sector presented a unique set of challenges and learning opportunities. While my specialization provided me with a solid understanding of legal intricacies in finance, entering the media industry required a fresh perspective.

The key difference lay in understanding the nuances of the media business so Before diving into the legal intricacies of the media industry at Star India Pvt Ltd., I prioritized understanding the company’s business. Interacting with business leaders helped me understand the intricacies of the industry, enabling me to approach legal challenges with a comprehensive understanding of the business context.

Although the media industry differed from my previous experience, the foundational skills and adaptability acquired in my previous roles proved really helpful. Leveraging my understanding of business dynamics, I navigated legal challenges more effectively and aligned legal strategies with overarching business objectives.

One of the key takeaways from my experience at Star India Pvt Ltd. was the importance of continuous learning and adaptability in a dynamic industry. The media sector is constantly evolving, and staying abreast of legal developments and industry trends is very essential for legal work.

Overall, my tenure at Star India Pvt Ltd. provided me with insights into media laws and reinforced the significance of understanding the business context in addressing legal challenges effectively. 

How do you approach overseeing legal objectives for such a large area, and what strategies do you employ to ensure success?

I started by understanding the work in that area, including the businesses and operations. Thereafter, I worked closely with my seniors to set clear legal goals that fit with the company’s overall plans. Good communication within the team members and with other departments is the key for everyone to work together smoothly. 

We also keep an eye out for any legal risks and try to mitigate them before they become big problems. I talk regularly with other departments of the company further to understand their legal needs and help out where I can. 

One notable aspect of this organization is the open communication fostered by our superiors. They encourage us to take risks and they also actively seek to understand ground-level issues through effective communication. Additionally, we are consistently striving to enhance our legal strategies and processes to adapt to evolving legal and business landscapes.

Based on your extensive experience in the legal field, what advice would you offer to fresh graduates who are considering a career in law?

The legal field offers numerous opportunities and is constantly evolving. Whether in litigation or corporate law, there are vast prospects for fresh graduates. As our country’s GDP grows, the demand for legal professionals will increase, providing ample opportunities for lawyers. 

However, continuous learning and staying updated with the latest developments in the sector are essential for growth in this field. Many legal websites and resources are nowadays which are invaluable resources for students in this regard. Additionally, while the initial stages of a legal career may seem daunting compared to other professions, the rewards throughout one’s life are significant.

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