“In the pursuit of legal excellence, a commitment to continuous learning, a higher purpose, and a passion for sharing knowledge become the cornerstones of a fulfilling journey.” – Satwinder Singh, Founder and Managing Partner, Aekom Legal

This interview has been published by Namrata Singh and The SuperLawyer Team

Mr. Singh, your journey from Jalandhar to the establishment of Aekom Legal is truly inspiring. Can you walk us through the key moments that shaped your path in law, from your commerce graduation to founding your own firm last year?

Thank you for acknowledging my journey. Initially, the prospect of practicing law was not a consideration during my undergraduate years. However, a strong desire for attaining a professional qualification drove me forward. To support my parents, I decided to pursue law through evening classes while working during the day. Simultaneously, I successfully completed my Company Secretary (CS) course while serving at the State Bank of India, stationed near the border towns of Punjab. After completion of my CS qualification, I left the bank and joined as a company secretary and then headed the office of a merchant banking firm in Chandigarh. My journey took a turn when I found myself amidst the challenging financial landscape following the collapse of the capital market. It was then that I recognized the enduring potential in practicing in the field of corporate and commercial laws.  

With this foundational expertise, I found my stride as a corporate lawyer, starting as an associate in one of Delhi’s notable law firms. Over time, I climbed the ranks to become a Partner. After accumulating over 24 years of valuable experience, I made a pivotal decision – to establish our own law firm, ‘Aekom Legal.’

The journey from Jalandhar to founding Aekom Legal has been fueled by a deep-rooted sense of purpose and is a story of continuous learning, professional growth, and an unwavering commitment to excellence in the field of law. 

The name “Aekom” is derived from the first word of Gurbani, “Ek Onkar” or “God is One.” Can you share a bit about the significance of this name and how it reflects the ethos of your law firm?

The name ‘Aekom’ holds a profound spiritual significance for our law firm, drawing inspiration from the sacred Gurbani phrase ‘Ek Onkar’ or in Hindi “एक ॐ” which translates to ‘God is One and all pervasive’. This name choice reflects not only my personal spiritual inclination but also a deep belief in the principles of unity and divine presence. 

Choosing the name ”Aekom” was a deliberate decision, driven by a desire to transcend self-interest. It symbolizes our commitment to infuse our legal practice with higher purpose and a dedication to ethical and principled legal services. In essence, ‘Aekom’ encapsulates the core values of unity, integrity and a profound sense of responsibility and righteousness. 

Moreover, the ethos of our firm is rooted in the belief that the pursuit of knowledge is integral to success. We hold a steadfast conviction that for every problem, a solution exists somewhere.

This guiding philosophy shapes our practice, fostering a culture of continuous learning and problem-solving to better serve our clients and the community at large. 

You’ve authored and co-authored books and articles. What drives you to contribute to legal literature, and can you share a memorable experience related to your writing?

Engaging in legal literature has been a deeply gratifying journey, propelled by my unwavering commitment to disseminating knowledge. My extensive experience as a regular faculty at ICSI, where I taught corporate law matters, including corporate restructuring and stamp duty to aspiring company secretaries, laid the foundation for this endeavor.  Additionally, I’ve had the privilege of being a speaker at various forums, such as different chambers of commerce, where I shared insights on Corporate Law, delving into topics like joint ventures, mergers, and acquisitions. 

The inspiration to actively contribute to legal literature stems from these interactions, providing not only a platform to share expertise but also fostering a meaningful engagement with evolving legal concepts. My driving force has always been the ceaseless pursuit of knowledge – an ethos underscored by a personal motto influenced by the belief that seeking the blessings of Goddess Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge, will naturally attract the blessings of Goddess Laxmi, symbolizing wealth and prosperity. 

This reciprocal process of learning and sharing underscores the significance of contributing to legal literature as not just a professional duty but a continuous and rewarding endeavor for personal and professional growth.

Over your extensive career, your expertise has expanded from corporate law to insolvency matters. What motivated you to diversify, and how has this expansion enriched your professional journey?

The introduction of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code in 2016 in India served as a pivotal moment, motivating a deliberate shift towards the intricate domain of insolvency matters. With a strong foundation in company law and having successfully navigated over 300 matters in the area of corporate restructuring, right from conceptualizing to execution, and working on  various Company law realms, including joint ventures, acquisitions etc. I recognized the transformative potential of this new legal framework. 

Driven by my deep passion for company laws, I proactively sought certification as a Resolution Professional, becoming one of the earliest individuals to achieve this distinction. This strategic move was fueled by a desire to remain at the forefront of the evolving legal landscape.

This strategic move has proven invaluable in real-world cases, allowing me to apply my enriched understanding of company laws to the dynamic challenges presented in insolvency proceedings. Early involvement in diverse matters has conferred a unique advantage, positioning me as a pioneer in this evolving field.

In essence, the introduction of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code acted as a catalyst, seamlessly merging with my background in company law and inspiring a purposeful pursuit of insolvency matters. This strategic alignment has not only enriched my professional journey but has also empowered me to offer comprehensive and effective legal solutions to clients navigating the complexities of corporate challenges and financial distress. Some of the notable achievements in the stressed assets acquisitions is navigating the acquisition of Ruchi Soya for Patanjali Group, Orchard Pharma acquisition for Dhanuka Group and many other acquisitions in M&A space. It also helped us to build a strong Dispute Resolution team. 

You’ve been appointed as a member of the Appellate Authority under various acts. How does this role contribute to your broader vision for the legal profession, and what challenges or successes have you encountered in this capacity? As the Chairman of the NCLT/NCLAT Task Force, what initiatives do you envision to enhance the efficiency of these tribunals, and how do you plan to address current challenges in corporate litigation?

The Government by notification appointed me as a member of the Appellate Authority for a period of three years. It’s an authority constituted under CA, CS and ICWA Acts. I feel privileged to take up this honorary role where you get the opportunity to dispense justice and also play the role as reformist. As the Chairman of the NCLT/NCLAT Task Force constituted by ICSI, my vision revolves around recommending the ways and means to streamline and enhance  the efficiency of these tribunals. The Task Force has submitted a comprehensive report to the President -ICSI. Once it is approved by the Council of ICSI, it will be submitted by the ICSI to President NCLT and other relevant authorities. This report focuses on vital initiatives to reform the system and address current challenges in corporate litigation. The emphasis is on reforming the process to make it more accessible and responsive to the dynamic needs of corporate litigation. The proposed initiatives seek to create a framework that not only expedites proceedings but also encourages a more collaborative and efficient resolution of disputes within the ambit of the NCLT and NCLAT. A key aspect highlighted in the report is the incorporation of mediation in the NCLT framework. By introducing mediation, we aim to unclog the current system and provide a more efficient alternative for resolving disputes. This initiative aligns with the broader goal of enhancing the overall efficiency of NCLT and NCLAT, ensuring a more expeditious and effective resolution of corporate litigation. I would also like to take the opportunity to thank ICSI for believing in me.

Being recognized as a Notable Practitioner in M&A and Private Equity by IFLR1000 is a significant achievement. How did you celebrate this recognition, and what does it mean to you personally and professionally? 

Being acknowledged as a Notable Practitioner in M&A and Private Equity by IFLR1000 is a momentous achievement that holds both personal and professional significance. Personally, I celebrated this recognition by taking a moment to reflect on the journey that led to this recognition. Gratitude fills my heart for the collaborative efforts and unwavering dedication that played a pivotal role in reaching this milestone. From a professional standpoint, this recognition is a testament to the commitment and expertise invested in the field of M&A and Private Equity.  The acknowledgment from IFLR1000 underscores the importance of consistently delivering high-quality legal services and upholding a standard of excellence in practice. 

This achievement not only bolsters personal confidence but also elevates professional credibility, creating new avenues for opportunities and collaborations within the legal realm. 

When you’re not immersed in legal matters, what are your favorite activities or hobbies that help you unwind? What inspires you outside the legal realm, and how does it influence your approach to your work?

In my early part of life, playing Tabla at Gurdwara was an activity of my life and over time, it has become a cherished hobby that evolved into a source of joy and relaxation. My love for playing Tabla is not just a leisure activity but a source of inspiration that brings balance to my life. It infuses a sense of achievement and a well-rounded perspective into my professional endeavors, enhancing my effectiveness in the legal world. Engaging in heartfelt conversations with friends is another way I find solace. Meaningful exchanges with friends provide me insight and a refreshing break that helps me to continue to work in a positive manner. 

You’ve been actively involved in various roles, including the past Chairman of NIRC of ICSI. How do you see your legacy in the legal profession, and what advice would you give to aspiring lawyers and company secretaries? 

Active engagement in diverse roles, including my tenure as the past Chairman of NIRC of ICSI, has been a defining force in shaping my professional journey. These leadership roles have not only honed my skills in public speaking but have also cultivated essential leadership traits that prove invaluable in navigating the intricate landscape of the legal profession. In essence, my legacy in the legal profession reflects the importance of a balanced approach—blending academic excellence with hands-on exposure and continually striving for both personal and professional growth. Opportunities like these should be embraced, as they not only provide a platform to showcase your strengths but also contribute significantly to your overall development.

To aspiring lawyers and company secretaries, my advice is simple yet profound: work hard, have a thirst for more knowledge, and adhere to the motto that drives your passion. The legal profession demands a relentless pursuit of excellence, and a strong foundation of knowledge coupled with dedicated effort is a key to success. Embrace every opportunity for learning and active participation, as they will serve as stepping stones toward a fulfilling and successful career in the dynamic and ever-evolving field of law. 

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