“I strive to be a collaborative and supportive team member, while also providing leadership and guidance when needed”- Sopin Peerzade, Head of Commercial Legal and IP at Syngene International Limited

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

Can you walk us through your journey from being a junior advocate to your current role as a seasoned legal professional in corporate operations and compliance?

My journey in the legal profession has been deeply influenced by my upbringing in a family of legal practitioners. Growing up, I was inspired by my father, a senior lawyer, whose interactions with clients and insightful advice amplified my interest in law. Despite this early fascination, my enthusiasm for a legal career waned as I matured. However, tragedy struck during my teenage years with the loss of my father, compelling me to carry forward his legacy.

Driven by a newfound sense of purpose, I chose to pursue a career in law. Although my initial interest was in corporate law, I began my journey by gaining foundational knowledge in a senior lawyer’s chamber after completing my law degree. During this time, I actively sought opportunities in the corporate legal sphere. It took nearly a year of persistent effort before I secured a position in a corporate setting, marking the beginning of my corporate legal career.

What motivated you to transition from practicing law in the courtroom to focusing on corporate legal operations and compliance management?

Transitioning to a career in corporate law was a deliberate choice driven by the desire for a more multifaceted and impactful legal role. Unlike traditional courtroom practice, corporate law offers a diverse range of responsibilities that extend beyond litigation. As a corporate legal professional, my role involves advising businesses on a wide array of legal matters, including contract negotiation, intellectual property rights, mergers and acquisitions, compliance, and regulatory affairs.

One of the most compelling aspects of corporate law is the exposure to new avenues in the legal field. Corporate lawyers often work closely with other departments within an organization, such as finance, human resources, and operations, gaining valuable insights into the inner workings of businesses. This multidisciplinary approach not only broadens one’s legal expertise but also provides a holistic understanding of how legal issues intersect with various aspects of business operations.

Moreover, working in corporate law offers the opportunity to engage with multinational corporations, which can be both challenging and rewarding. Multinational coverage exposes corporate lawyers to a diverse range of legal frameworks and cultural nuances, requiring them to adapt their legal strategies to different jurisdictions. This global perspective not only enhances one’s legal acumen but also fosters a greater appreciation for cultural diversity and international business practices.

Overall, making a career in corporate law provides a unique blend of intellectual challenge, professional growth, and global exposure, making it an exciting and fulfilling choice for legal professionals seeking to expand their horizons.

With over 15 years of experience in corporate legal affairs, what are some of the key challenges you’ve encountered, and how have you overcome them?

With over 15 years of experience in corporate legal affairs, I have encountered many challenges, ups and downs. I have failed sometimes and have successfully navigated numerous challenges as well, each of which has contributed to my growth and development as a legal professional. One of the key strategies I’ve employed to overcome these challenges is a commitment to continuous learning and improvement. I make it a priority to stay abreast of recent laws, regulatory changes, and emerging trends in the field of law. This proactive approach not only helps me anticipate and address potential challenges but also allows me to provide valuable insights and guidance to my colleagues, stakeholders and team members.

Another important aspect of my approach to corporate legal affairs is effective people management. As a corporate lawyer, I have often worked closely with colleagues from diverse backgrounds and disciplines, as well as external stakeholders such as regulators and legal advisors. Building and maintaining strong relationships based on trust and respect is essential in this role. I strive to be a collaborative and supportive team member, while also providing leadership and guidance when needed.

Additionally, my experience has taught me the importance of adaptability and resilience in the face of challenges. Corporate legal affairs can be unpredictable, and being able to quickly pivot and find creative solutions is crucial. I approach each challenge with a positive mindset and a willingness to learn from every experience, which has helped me grow both personally and professionally.

In summary, my approach to corporate legal affairs is grounded in continuous learning, effective people management, and adaptability. By staying abreast of legal developments, building strong relationships, and approaching challenges with a positive mindset, I have been able to overcome obstacles and achieve success in my career.

You have extensive experience in negotiating various types of legal documents such as Master Services Agreements, NDAs, and SOWs. Could you share some strategies you employ during negotiations to ensure favorable outcomes for your organization?

Negotiating legal documents such as Master Services Agreements (MSAs), Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs), and Statements of Work (SOWs) requires a strategic approach to ensure favorable outcomes for the organization. Here are some key strategies I employ during negotiations:

Thorough Preparation: Before entering negotiations, I do my own research and analysis of the terms and conditions involved. This includes understanding the organization’s objectives, what’s on stake, identifying potential risks, and familiarizing myself with relevant laws and regulations.

Clear Communication: Effective communication is essential during negotiations. I ensure that all parties involved understand the organization’s priorities and concerns, and I strive to maintain open and transparent communication throughout the process.

Focus on Win-Win Solutions: I approach negotiations with a collaborative mindset, seeking to find mutually beneficial solutions for all parties involved. This involves identifying common interests and exploring creative options to address any differences.

Flexibility and Adaptability: Negotiations often require flexibility and the ability to adapt to changing circumstances. I remain open to alternative proposals and am willing to adjust my approach to achieve a favorable outcome.

Attention to Detail: During negotiations, I pay close attention to the details of the agreement, ensuring that all terms are clearly defined and align with the organization’s objectives and risk appetite. This includes reviewing and revising drafts of the agreement to address any ambiguities or potential issues.

Seeking Legal Advice: When necessary, I seek input from legal advisors to ensure that the organization’s interests are protected and that the agreement complies with relevant laws and regulations.

Maintaining Professionalism: Throughout the negotiation process, I maintain a professional demeanor and focus on building positive relationships with the other parties involved. This helps to facilitate productive discussions and achieve favorable outcomes.

By employing these strategies, I have been able to successfully negotiate various types of legal documents, ensuring that the organization’s interests are protected and that agreements are fair and equitable for all parties involved.

Given your expertise in compliance and risk management, could you elaborate on how you handle due diligence processes, particularly concerning financial irregularities and regulatory compliance such as FCPA and Anti-Money Laundering laws?

In my previous roles, I have learnt that handling due diligence processes, especially concerning financial irregularities and regulatory compliance such as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) laws, requires a meticulous approach. 

Comprehensive Review:  One needs to begin by conducting a thorough review of the organization’s operations, financial records, and business practices. This helps identify potential areas of risk and ensures compliance with applicable laws and regulations.

Risk Assessment: Based on the review, we need to conduct a risk assessment to prioritize areas that require further investigation. This includes assessing the likelihood and potential impact of financial irregularities or compliance violations.

Due Diligence Procedures: I implemented due diligence procedures to gather relevant information and verify the accuracy of information provided my various solutions. This may involve reviewing contracts, financial statements, and other relevant documents.

FCPA Compliance: For FCPA compliance, I ensure that the organization has adequate policies and procedures in place to prevent bribery and corruption. This includes conducting due diligence on third-party partners and implementing training programs for employees.

AML Compliance: For AML compliance, I verify that the organization has effective controls in place to detect and prevent money laundering activities. This includes conducting customer due diligence and transaction monitoring, as well as complying with reporting requirements.

Documentation and Reporting: Throughout the due diligence process, I maintain detailed documentation of my findings and actions taken. This documentation is essential for compliance purposes and can help demonstrate the organization’s commitment to regulatory compliance.

Continuous Monitoring: Finally, I recommend implementing a system for continuous monitoring of compliance with FCPA, AML, and other relevant regulations. This helps ensure that any potential issues are identified and addressed promptly.

Leveraging due diligence platforms like Dun and Bradstreet, LexisNexis, and others is crucial for a thorough due diligence process. These platforms provide access to a wealth of information and data that can aid in the identification of potential risks and compliance issues. They enable us to conduct comprehensive background checks on third parties, including vendors, suppliers, and business partners, ensuring they align with the organization’s standards and comply with relevant regulations. These platforms also help in identifying politically exposed persons (PEPs) and assessing government linkages, which are critical in mitigating risks associated with corruption and bribery.

Additionally, aligning with the World Economic Forum’s guidelines on aspects like FCPA, AML, PEP, government linkages, geopolitical risks, and reputational damages is essential for maintaining a robust compliance program. These guidelines provide a framework for identifying, assessing, and mitigating risks, ensuring that the organization operates ethically and in accordance with global standards.

In conclusion, the use of due diligence platforms and alignment with the World Economic Forum’s guidelines are essential components of an effective compliance and risk management strategy. By following these steps and leveraging these tools and frameworks, I can ensure that the organization remains compliant with relevant regulations and maintains a strong reputation in the market.

Throughout your career, you’ve managed contract databases and utilized various tools for risk management. How do you stay updated with the latest technologies and methodologies in this field?

Staying updated with the latest technologies and methodologies in contract management and risk management is crucial for ensuring efficiency and effectiveness in these areas. 

Continuous Learning: I actively seek out opportunities for continuous learning, such as attending webinars, workshops, and conferences focused on contract management, risk management, and related technologies. These events provide insights into emerging trends and best practices in the field.

Professional Networks: I try to maintain a strong network of professionals in the legal and compliance fields, including peers, mentors, and industry experts. Engaging with these networks allows me to exchange ideas, share experiences, and stay updated on the latest developments.

Industry Publications: I regularly read industry publications, journals, and blogs that cover contract management, risk management, and technology in the legal field. This helps me stay informed about new tools, methodologies, and case studies.

Vendor Updates: I keep in touch with vendors and providers of contract management and risk management tools to stay updated on new features, updates, and best practices.

Training: I pursue relevant training in contract management, risk management, and related technologies to enhance my skills and stay current with industry standards.

Can you share an instance where your strategic legal planning and risk management techniques helped prevent significant revenue leakages or mitigate potential legal issues for your organization?

In my previous roles, I was involved in many deals where we had to strategically plan, use contract management platforms, and risk management techniques in preventing significant revenue leakages and mitigate potential legal issues for the organization.

This involves end to end contract management including drafting, redlining, negotiating, and executing and obligation management of complex contracts with a key client/supplier for the provision of critical services. I had to recognize the potential risks involved, conduct a thorough risk assessment and identified several areas that required careful attention/monitoring.

Firstly, we have to negotiate the terms and conditions that are well within the risk appetite of the organization and are capable of being mitigated. Including clear payment terms, performance metrics, and dispute resolution mechanisms. Second, we need to utilize a contract management platform to track key milestones and obligations under the contract, ensuring compliance and minimizing the risk of breaches. Third, I implemented periodic reviews of the contract performance to identify and address any issues proactively.

As a result of these efforts, we were able to prevent significant revenue leakages by ensuring that we met all obligations and delivered the services as agreed. Additionally, our proactive approach to risk management helped us avoid potential legal disputes and costly litigation.

As someone who has worked in fast-paced, high-pressure environments, how do you maintain your composure and make effective decisions under such conditions?

Maintaining composure and making effective decisions in fast-paced, high-pressure environments is essential for any legal professional.

Prioritize and Organize: I prioritize tasks based on urgency and importance, ensuring that critical issues are addressed first. I also organize my workload using tools such as to-do lists and calendars to stay on track.

Stay Calm and Focused: I try to remain calm under pressure by staying positive, and focusing on the task at hand. This helps me think more clearly and make better decisions.

Seek Input: I consult with colleagues, mentors, or subject matter experts to gather different perspectives and insights. This helps me make more informed decisions and consider alternative approaches.

Manage Time Effectively: I allocate time, setting aside dedicated periods for tasks that require focus and concentration. This helps prevent feeling overwhelmed and ensures that tasks are completed efficiently.

Adaptability: I remain flexible and adaptable, willing to adjust my plans and strategies as the situation evolves. This allows me to respond quickly to changing circumstances and make timely decisions.

Learn from Mistakes: I view mistakes as learning opportunities, reflecting on what went wrong and how I can improve in the future. This mindset helps me grow and become more resilient in high-pressure environments.

Self-Care: I prioritize self-care activities such as exercise, playing cricket, going for a walk, listening to music, mindfulness, and adequate sleep to maintain my physical and mental well-being. This helps me stay energized and focused during demanding periods.

Could you highlight the importance of continuous improvement in contracts management and compliance practices, based on your experience in streamlining processes and establishing governance structures?

Continuous improvement in contracts management and compliance practices is crucial for ensuring efficiency, reducing risks, and achieving organizational goals. Based on my experience in streamlining processes and establishing governance structures, I have seen firsthand the benefits of this approach.

Efficiency: Continuous improvement helps identify and eliminate inefficiencies in contracts management and compliance processes. By streamlining workflows, standardizing procedures, and leveraging technology, organizations can reduce manual efforts and save time and resources.

Risk Reduction: Regular review and enhancement of compliance practices help mitigate risks associated with regulatory non-compliance, contract disputes, and legal issues. By staying updated with regulatory changes and best practices, organizations can proactively address potential risks.

Cost Savings: Continuous improvement leads to cost savings by optimizing resources and reducing the likelihood of fines, penalties, and legal fees associated with non-compliance. By implementing efficient processes and controls, organizations can achieve cost-effective contracts management and compliance practices.

Enhanced Governance: Establishing governance structures ensures accountability, transparency, and consistency in contracts management and compliance practices. By defining roles and responsibilities, setting clear objectives, and implementing robust monitoring mechanisms, organizations can improve decision-making and compliance outcomes.

Stakeholder Confidence: Continuous improvement demonstrates a commitment to excellence and compliance, enhancing stakeholder confidence in the organization’s operations. By regularly reviewing and enhancing contracts management and compliance practices, organizations can build trust with stakeholders and maintain a positive reputation.

In conclusion, continuous improvement in contracts management and compliance practices is essential for organizations to achieve efficiency, reduce risks, and enhance governance. By adopting a proactive approach to process enhancement and governance establishment, organizations can achieve sustainable success in contracts management and compliance.

Lastly, what advice would you offer to fresh graduates aspiring to pursue a career in law, especially those interested in corporate legal operations and compliance management?

My advice to fresh graduates aspiring to pursue a career in law, especially in corporate legal operations and compliance management:

Gain Practical Experience: Seek internships or entry-level positions in law firms, corporate legal departments, or government agencies to gain practical experience and exposure to different areas of law. Try to focus and learn the practical aspects of the law.

Develop a Strong Foundation: Focus on building a strong foundation in legal principles and practices during your studies. Pay attention to courses related to corporate law, compliance, and risk management.

Stay Updated: Stay informed about the latest developments in the legal field, especially in areas relevant to corporate legal operations and compliance management. Subscribe to legal publications, attend seminars, read books and participate in professional development programs.

Network: Build a professional network by attending networking events, joining professional organizations, and connecting with professionals in the field. Networking can help you learn about job opportunities and gain valuable insights from experienced professionals.

Enhance Your Skills: Develop skills that are important for a career in corporate legal operations and compliance management, such as attention to detail, analytical thinking, problem-solving, and communication skills.

Consider Further Education: Consider pursuing further education, such as a master’s degree or certifications in areas like compliance or risk management, to enhance your knowledge and skills in corporate legal operations.

Be Open to Learning: Be open to learning from your experiences and be willing to take on new challenges. A career in law is constantly evolving, so it’s important to be adaptable and willing to grow professionally.

By following these tips, you can start building a successful career in corporate legal operations and compliance management. Remember to stay motivated, persevere through challenges, and continue learning and growing in your field.

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