Associates, In-House Counsels & Advocates

“Embracing technology tools and resources, such as legal research platforms, case management software, and artificial intelligence applications, streamlines workflows and facilitates efficient information retrieval in diverse legal areas”- Ajinkya Patil, Senior Legal Counsel – Dentsu

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

Can you share a pivotal moment or experience from your early career that solidified your decision to pursue law as a profession?

My grandfather was a significant influence on my career path! He was a Prothonotary and Senior Master in the Bombay High Court. On summer vacations when I used to visit his place, he used to tell me how his day at work was like. Just seeing him get all decked up in crisp formals and a coat with his suitcase ready to go to work is what inspired me to pursue law. The discipline in life which comes along with it is just an icing on the cake.   

You’ve had an extensive journey through various law firms and corporate positions. What motivated you to transition from law firms to corporate roles, and how did each experience shape your expertise?

Transitioning from law firms to corporate roles was motivated by a desire for a different perspective and new challenges in my career journey. Each experience has played a significant role in shaping my expertise in different ways. Starting in law firms provided me with a strong foundation in legal practice. In this environment, I honed essential skills such as legal research, writing, and advocacy. Working on diverse cases and projects allowed me to develop a broad understanding of various areas of law and learn to navigate complex legal issues efficiently. Additionally, collaborating with experienced attorneys and receiving mentorship helped me refine my approach to legal analysis and client representation. Also, as it is necessary to have a strong foundation before constructing a building, I always believed the law firm experience provides with that strong foundation and basics at the starting point of your career. 

Transitioning to corporate roles offered a unique vantage point to apply my legal skills in a different context. In a corporate setting, I gained insights into the business side of legal matters, including contract negotiation, regulatory compliance, and risk management. Working closely with internal stakeholders, such as executives, department heads, and cross-functional teams, enhanced my ability to align legal strategies with organizational goals and priorities. Moreover, navigating corporate environments provided me with valuable experience in understanding the interplay between legal considerations and business objectives, fostering a more holistic approach to problem-solving.

Each experience, whether in law firms or corporate settings, has contributed to my growth as a legal professional. 

With your background in handling litigation matters across different forums, could you highlight a particularly challenging case you managed and the strategies you employed to navigate it successfully?

I strongly believe that each case has its own complexities and challenges, and it cannot really be segregated to the most and the least challenging. However, one case which stands out particularly is an international arbitration before the Swiss Arbitration Centre. I chose this one not because of the complexities involved (though it was extremely complex) but considering that it was my first international arbitration involving a completely different process altogether. I had to collaborate with a top tier law firm of Geneva for assistance and working with their team was itself very challenging and at the same time a big learning experience. To navigate this case successfully, several key strategies were employed:

  • The first step was conducting a comprehensive analysis of the facts, contracts, and applicable law. This involved reviewing extensive documentation, including contracts, emails, financial records, and other evidence, to gain a deep understanding of the case’s nuances and intricacies.
  • Based on the analysis, a strategic litigation plan was devised to address the various legal and factual issues effectively. This plan involved identifying strengths and weaknesses in our position, anticipating opposing arguments, and formulating proactive strategies to mitigate risks and maximize favorable outcomes.
  • Diligent Discovery: Given the complexity of the case, diligent discovery was crucial. This involved conducting thorough investigations, propounding targeted discovery requests, and strategically responding to discovery demands from opposing parties. Leveraging electronic discovery tools and expert assistance facilitated the efficient management of voluminous documents and data.
  • Collaborative Approach: Collaboration with colleagues, experts, and clients played a pivotal role in the successful management of the case. Regular communication, teamwork, and coordination ensured that everyone involved was aligned with the litigation strategy and working towards common goals.

I will always remember this case as I got the opportunity to work with one of the best law firms in Geneva and in the process gained sight of their working ways and culture and made some lifelong contacts. 

Your experience spans across diverse legal domains such as civil laws, corporate laws, real estate, and arbitration. How do you manage to stay updated and proficient in such a wide array of legal areas?

Staying updated and proficient across diverse legal domains requires a combination of ongoing learning, strategic focus, and effective resource management. My senior always used to tell me that ‘Reading’ is the key and that it is never enough and one has to keep reading more and more. This has stuck with me ever since and I make sure to take time to do that. It does not specifically mean that one has to read Law books and commentaries. A simple novel, newspaper, articles are enough. I prefer to categorize the reading process in the following manner. 

  • I prioritize continuous learning through various channels, including legal seminars, webinars, workshops, and professional development courses. These opportunities allow me to stay abreast of legal developments, emerging trends, and best practices across different practice areas.
  • I dedicate time to conducting legal research regularly to stay informed about recent case law, statutory changes, and regulatory updates relevant to each legal domain. Leveraging online legal databases, scholarly journals, and reputable legal publications helps me access timely and accurate information.
  • Engaging with colleagues, mentors, and legal professionals across different practice areas fosters knowledge sharing and collaboration. Participating in professional associations, bar committees, and industry forums provides valuable insights and perspectives from peers and experts in various legal fields.
  • Embracing technology tools and resources, such as legal research platforms, case management software, and artificial intelligence applications, streamlines workflows and facilitates efficient information retrieval in diverse legal areas.
  • Seeking guidance from experienced mentors and senior colleagues provides invaluable support and guidance in navigating complex legal issues and expanding expertise across different practice areas.

As someone who has held leadership positions, including leading teams and managing departments, what strategies do you employ to foster effective teamwork and collaboration within legal environments?

The teamwork and collaboration should not be restricted only within the legal team. The key in a corporate setting is to be a business enabler rather than just finding legal solutions to the problem. The first and foremost thing I tell the team is that working in the corporate sector is completely different from that of a law firm (from experience!) and the objective is to find a solution which is viable for the business and one which does not put the company exposed to any potential liability or conflict. I make sure to set up weekly catch-up calls with the business leaders and stakeholders just to discuss casual business and their expectations from the legal team. Likewise, acknowledging and celebrating team achievements (legal and business), both big and small and seeing failures as opportunities for learning and improvement help in the long run. 

In your role as a legal professional, you’ve undoubtedly encountered complex contract negotiations. Can you share some insights into your approach to negotiating contracts and ensuring favorable outcomes for your organization?

Absolutely! Negotiating contracts can be intricate and demanding, requiring a blend of legal expertise, strategic thinking, and effective communication skills. Before entering into negotiations, conducting comprehensive research and analysis to fully understand the terms, conditions, and potential implications of the contract is important. This includes reviewing relevant laws and regulations, understanding industry standards, and gathering information about the other party’s preferences and priorities. Working closely with stakeholders to understand their objectives is equally important. Clear and concise communication is essential throughout the negotiation process. Effective communication helps build understanding and facilitates productive dialogue.

Given your involvement in Mergers and Acquisitions, could you discuss some of the key legal challenges you’ve faced in such transactions and how you navigated them to ensure compliance and success?

Certainly! Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) transactions present a plethora of legal challenges, ranging from regulatory compliance to contractual issues. Here are some key legal challenges I’ve encountered in M&A transactions, along with strategies for navigating them to ensure compliance and success:

  1. Regulatory Compliance: One of the foremost challenges in M&A transactions is navigating the complex web of regulatory requirements and obtaining necessary approvals from regulatory authorities. This includes antitrust regulations, securities laws, foreign investment regulations, and industry-specific regulations. 
  2. Contractual Issues: M&A transactions involve negotiating and drafting numerous contracts and agreements, including purchase agreements, shareholder agreements, and employment contracts. Ensuring that these contracts accurately reflect the parties’ intentions, protect their respective interests, and comply with legal requirements is critical. 
  3. Intellectual Property (IP) Issues: IP considerations are often paramount in M&A transactions, particularly in technology-driven industries. Identifying and assessing the target company’s IP assets, including patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets, is crucial to evaluating the transaction’s value and mitigating risks. 
  4. Employment and Labor Law: M&A transactions can have significant implications for employees, including potential changes in employment terms, benefits, and job security. Ensuring compliance with employment and labor laws, including regulations governing layoffs, severance pay, and employee benefits, is essential to minimizing legal risks and maintaining positive employee relations. 
  5. Data Privacy and Security: In an increasingly digital world, data privacy and security considerations are critical in M&A transactions, particularly when handling sensitive personal or proprietary information. Ensuring compliance with data protection laws and regulations, such as the GDPR and CCPA, is essential to protecting both parties’ interests and mitigating potential legal and reputational risks.

By proactively addressing these and other legal challenges in M&A transactions, I aim to facilitate smooth and successful transactions that create value for all stakeholders involved while minimizing legal risks and ensuring compliance with applicable laws and regulations.

Drawing from your extensive experience, what advice would you offer to fresh law graduates stepping into the field today, especially regarding career growth and navigating the complexities of the legal profession?

For fresh law graduates entering the legal profession, here are some key pieces of advice to consider as you embark on your career journey:

  1. Continuous Learning and Skill Development: The legal profession is constantly evolving, so it’s essential to prioritize continuous learning and skill development throughout your career. Stay updated on legal developments, industry trends, and emerging areas of law through ongoing education, professional development programs, and networking opportunities.
  2. Seek Mentorship and Guidance: Find mentors within the legal profession who can offer guidance, support, and advice as you navigate the complexities of your career. Mentors can provide valuable insights, help you develop professionally, and offer perspective based on their own experiences in the field.
  3. Embrace Technology and Innovation: Embrace technology and innovation as valuable tools for enhancing your legal practice. Stay abreast of advancements in legal technology, such as case management software, research tools, and e-discovery platforms, and leverage them to streamline your work processes, improve efficiency, and deliver greater value to your clients.
  4. Cultivate Professionalism and Integrity: Uphold the highest standards of professionalism and integrity in all aspects of your legal practice. Adhere to ethical guidelines and codes of conduct, maintain confidentiality, and always act in the best interests of your clients while upholding the rule of law.
  5. Develop a Strong Work Ethic and Resilience: The legal profession can be demanding and challenging, requiring perseverance, resilience, and a strong work ethic. Be prepared to put in the time and effort necessary to excel in your career, and don’t be deterred by setbacks or obstacles along the way.
  6. Stay Flexible and Adapt to Change: The legal profession is dynamic and constantly evolving, so be prepared to adapt to change and embrace new opportunities as they arise. Stay flexible in your career trajectory, be open to new experiences and challenges, and seize opportunities for growth and advancement along the way.

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