“Each step has been instrumental in defining my approach to legal challenges and contributing to the growth and success of the organizations I’ve been a part of”- Mehak Gupta, Senior Legal Counsel & Insurance Counsel at Infosys

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

Can you tell us about your journey into the field of law, from your early education to your current role as Senior Legal Counsel at Infosys Limited?

My journey into the field of law has been both deliberate and transformative. Initially, I embarked on a path in Chartered Accountancy alongside pursuing Bachelor of Commerce (Honours) program at Delhi University. However, it was during this time that I realized my passion lay more in the realm of company and business law rather than accountancy.

This revelation prompted me to take the entrance exam for law, and I was fortunate to secure a place at Campus Law Centre, Delhi University. This educational shift allowed me to delve deeper into my newfound interest, laying the foundation for my legal career.

The academic rigor I experienced at law school made me realize that I enjoyed legal research and the discipline that comes with academic writing. I therefore decided to pursue a master’s degree in law and was fortunate enough to get accepted into one of the world’s best LL.M. programs at the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom. 

At Cambridge, I had the opportunity to delve into a diverse range of subjects, from International Taxation to IP rights and Corporate Financing. This international exposure broadened my horizons and equipped me with a comprehensive understanding of global legal frameworks and practices.

Upon completing my education, I joined Vaish Associates, where I honed my practical legal skills. Working on complex matters related to the Income Tax Act, 1961, I had the privilege to collaborate with renowned legal professionals such as Mr. Harish Salve, Mr. P. Chidambaram, and Mr. Kapil Sibal. These experiences not only enriched my legal expertise but also instilled in me the importance of diligence, teamwork, and taking ownership of tasks.

Transitioning to Panasonic as the legal counsel for their Innovation Center was another significant milestone in my career. Here, I was responsible for providing end-to-end legal advisory for cutting-edge technology platforms. My role was multifaceted, encompassing everything from conducting compliance seminars to drafting policies on vendor procurement, social media, anti-bribery, and privacy law.

Now, as a Senior Legal Counsel at Infosys, I continue to navigate the dynamic intersection of law and technology. My journey from studying Commerce to choosing law has been a continuous learning experience, shaping me into the lawyer I am today. Each step has been instrumental in defining my approach to legal challenges and contributing to the growth and success of the organizations I’ve been a part of.

With such a diverse educational background, including law and commerce, what drew you specifically to pursue a career in law?

During my studies in commerce at Delhi University and chartered accountancy at ICAI, I found myself increasingly intrigued by the intricate legal frameworks that govern business transactions, corporate structures, and regulatory compliance. This curiosity led me to explore law as a potential career path.

Further, the dynamic nature of the legal profession, coupled with its potential to influence business strategies, drive innovation, and promote ethical practices, resonated with my aspirations and values. I was particularly attracted to the interdisciplinary nature of law, which allows me to integrate my background in commerce with legal expertise to provide holistic solutions to complex business and regulatory issues.

With my diverse educational background in both law and commerce, it has undoubtedly shaped my perspective and enriched my skill set. While commerce provided me with a strong foundation in financial and business principles, it was my growing interest in the legal aspects of business operations and corporate governance that ultimately drew me towards a career in law.

Your work experience spans across different sectors, from legal counsel at Panasonic to your current role at Infosys. How has this variety of experiences shaped your approach to legal practice?

At Vaish Associates, I had the invaluable opportunity to gain field-level exposure as a lawyer, focusing on tax litigation and arbitration. This experience was instrumental in enhancing my understanding of the functioning of the court, the mindset and interpretation of judges, and the intricacies of commercial and tax laws /regulations. I learned to navigate complex legal issues, anticipate potential challenges, and develop effective strategies to advocate for clients and protect their interests.

Transitioning to Panasonic’s in-house legal team and subsequently to Infosys, I applied the insights and skills gained from my litigation experience to navigate the complex regulatory landscapes and provide strategic legal counsel across different sectors. My ability to analyse complex legal issues, identify creative solutions, and communicate effectively with diverse stakeholders has been greatly enhanced by my deep understanding of litigation.

Further, at Panasonic, I had the opportunity to work as a legal counsel with its Innovation Center. This provided me with a unique opportunity to immerse myself in the world of technology and innovation. As the lead counsel of the Panasonic Innovation Centre, I was responsible for providing end-to-end legal advisory for cutting-edge technology platforms, conducting compliance seminars, and drafting comprehensive policies. This experience taught me the importance of staying abreast of technological advancements, understanding industry-specific regulations, and effectively communicating complex legal concepts to non-legal stakeholders.

Transitioning to Infosys, has further broadened my horizons and refined my approach to legal practice.

As a lawyer with a mix of litigation and in-house experience, it equipped me with a multifaceted skill set, enabling me to become a more rounded lawyer and cultivate a proactive, solution oriented, and forward-thinking mindset.

Could you share some insights into the challenges you’ve faced while navigating the legal landscape in both corporate and commercial settings?

One of the primary challenges I’ve faced is staying abreast of the ever-evolving regulatory frameworks and industry-specific regulations across different sectors. The legal landscape is dynamic, with laws, regulations, and compliance requirements frequently changing in response to technological advancements, global trends, and socio-economic developments. Keeping up with these changes requires continuous learning, proactive research, and a deep understanding of the nuances and complexities of each sector.

Another challenge I’ve encountered is balancing legal rigor with practical considerations and business objectives. In corporate settings, legal counsel often plays a strategic role in guiding decision-making, managing risks, and facilitating business transactions. It’s crucial to align legal advice with organizational goals, foster cross-functional collaboration, and develop tailored legal solutions that support innovation, growth, and compliance while mitigating risks and protecting the interests of the organization and its stakeholders.

Your expertise includes areas like corporate finance, intellectual property, and international taxation. How do you stay updated in such dynamic fields, and how do you apply this knowledge in your day-to-day work?

One of my key strategies for staying updated is to cultivate a diverse and extensive professional network, comprising colleagues, peers, and mentors across different sectors, industries, and jurisdictions. It’s essential to actively participate in industry conferences, seminars, and engage in professional associations, and collaborate with external advisors and experts to exchange insights and share best practices.

Additionally, I leverage a variety of resources and platforms, including legal publications, journals, newsletters, and online databases, to access up-to-date information, case studies, and regulatory updates. I also engage in continuous self-directed learning, professional development, and skill enhancement through online courses, certifications, and training programs- the most recent courses completed by me are Anti-bribery and Corruption, M&A Regulation and Compliance, and Concept of Privacy by Design. 

Applying this knowledge in my day-to-day work involves analytical skills, and practical experience to address complex legal issues and develop tailored legal advice for stakeholders, and cross-functional teams. I strongly believe that one of the essential elements of being an in-house counsel is to collaborate closely with colleagues and stakeholders to understand their needs, and objectives, and accordingly develop innovative, pragmatic, and ethical solutions that align with business goals. 

Furthermore, I have always taken every opportunity I’ve had to share the information, knowledge, and experience that I have gained during my years navigating the multifaceted and complex work undertaken by me as the in-house legal counsel for two separate Fortune 500 companies, to other members of the legal community either through presenting my learnings in conferences or conducting trainings for various departments within my organization. I actively mentor and train the Infosys’ Legal Process Management (LPM) Team which comprises young lawyers and routinely help them understand the deeper nuances of technology, IPR and Data Privacy Law, along with advising and guiding them on honing their drafting and negotiation skills.

In essence, staying updated in dynamic fields requires a proactive, multidimensional, and holistic approach to learning and professional development.

As someone deeply involved in contract negotiation and management, what are some key strategies you’ve developed for ensuring successful outcomes in complex agreements?

During my 10-plus years in the legal profession, navigating complex contract negotiation and management has been a critical aspect of my role. I’ve had the opportunity to participate in and lead several ‘first of their kind’ transactions in the IT Services sector. These transactions inter alia involved, advising on innovative structures to provide IT services, negotiating complex high-value software development and licensing agreements, as well as advising on and representing my organization in private and public tendering processes.

One of the key strategies according to me is to conduct comprehensive due diligence, identifying potential risks, challenges, and identifying creative and innovative, solutions to complex legal, commercial, and regulatory issues, and develop flexible, and adaptive, contract structures, terms, and conditions that align with business goals, support innovation, mitigate risks, and provide clarity, certainty, and predictability for all parties involved.

A crucial aspect of this approach is the importance of understanding the business and project well to be able to negotiate effectively. By gaining a thorough understanding of the business objectives, market dynamics, competitive landscape, regulatory environment, and the specific requirements, goals, and constraints of the project, I am able to align legal advice and contractual terms with business goals, support innovation, mitigate risks, and provide clarity, certainty, and predictability for all parties involved.

Additionally, effective collaboration with various internal and external stakeholders to successfully close the time-sensitive transactions is an essential part of being a commercial contracts counsel.

Your achievements include awards for legal excellence and contributions to data governance programs. In your opinion, how significant do you believe receiving awards and recognition is for legal professionals, and how have such accolades influenced your career trajectory and professional development? 

While awards and recognition in the legal profession may not always translate directly into monetary gains, their importance, in my opinion, should not be understated. 

These accolades serve as invaluable markers of expertise, dedication, and contributions to the legal field, bolstering credibility and enhancing reputation among peers, clients, and potential employers. 

Such awards have been instrumental in shaping my career trajectory and professional development in ways that go beyond financial incentives. They have opened doors to new opportunities, such as networking events and speaking engagements, which have enriched my professional network and professional growth. 

Moreover, awards and recognition act as motivational milestones, driving me to continually strive for excellence, innovation, and they instill a sense of pride, accomplishment, and responsibility, inspiring me to uphold the highest standards of professionalism and ethics in my legal practice.

Lastly, considering your journey and accomplishments, what advice would you offer to fresh graduates aspiring to pursue a career in law?

Reflecting on my journey in the legal profession, I have several pieces of advice for fresh graduates aspiring to pursue a career in law.

Firstly, prioritize continuous learning and professional development. The legal landscape is constantly evolving, so staying updated by attending workshops, seminars, and training sessions is essential.

Secondly, focus on building a strong professional network. Networking with peers, mentors, and industry professionals can open doors to new opportunities, provide valuable insights, and offer support and guidance as you navigate your career path. Remember, relationships built early in your career can serve as valuable resources throughout your professional journey.

Thirdly, seek out diverse experiences and opportunities to gain hands-on experience across different areas of law. This will not only help you discover your passion and areas of interest but also make you a more well-rounded and versatile legal professional, capable of adapting to different challenges and opportunities.

Additionally, maintain a strong work ethic, integrity, and commitment to excellence in all aspects of your work. Building a reputation for reliability, professionalism, and ethical practice is crucial for long-term success and credibility in the legal profession.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, don’t be too hard on yourself. Achieving your goals and building a successful career takes time, persistence, and patience. Set realistic expectations, celebrate small victories along the way, and remember that setbacks and challenges are opportunities for growth and learning.

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