Legal fields can evolve rapidly, and being flexible in your approach allows you to incorporate new developments effectively-Mohit Batra, Associate Director- Legal &Compliance,VerSe Innovation(Josh& Dailyhunt)

This interview has been published by  Priyanka Karwa and The SuperLawyer Team

Can you please tell us about your journey and how you ended up pursuing a career in law?  What inspired you to choose this profession?  

I come from a non-legal background. Following my completion of school, I enrolled  at Delhi University to pursue a degree in History (Hons) while simultaneously preparing for a  law entrance exam. Progressing further, I participated in several entrance exams and achieved  an impressive rank in the GGSIP university entrance exam. This accomplishment led me to  join Amity Law School (GGSIP University), conveniently located in my hometown of Delhi.  It took a few semesters to gain a comprehensive understanding of the field of law as a subject,  and I further expanded my knowledge through internships, gaining insight into its practical  applications.  

During my time at law school, my areas of particular interest revolved around company law  and the realms of International Trade and Intellectual Property. This focus guided my  trajectory, leading me to specialize in corporate laws with a specific inclination towards the  intricacies of commercial contracts and advisory.  

With over 14 years of experience in legal advisory, litigation, and compliance, could you  share some of the most significant challenges you have faced in your career and how you  overcame them? 

I started my career as an In-house counsel with a Korean multinational corporation.  Being the first Indian employee in this role, I was entrusted with the responsibility of initiating  operations from the Korean MNC’s representative office and establishing a subsidiary within  India. This task presented challenges, yet it captivated my interest as I navigated through the  intricacies of elucidating legal obligations and confronting day-to-day hurdles associated with  the establishment of a wholly owned subsidiary in the Indian context. Beyond managing  routine responsibilities, I also collaborated with the headquarters to address legal inquiries  pertaining to significant contracts involving government public sector undertakings (PSUs) and  private enterprises in India. Throughout my professional journey, my primary area of expertise  and interest has revolved around General Corporate law as a practice. My predominant focus  lies in facilitating transactions, encompassing activities such as conducting thorough due  diligence, managing transactional documentation, providing advisory services, and extensively  engaging with a broad spectrum of corporate and commercial legal affairs for privately held  companies. 

Navigating this journey as a recent law graduate came with its share of challenges, particularly  when faced with the task of addressing inquiries and managing responsibilities independently, without the luxury of guidance. Being the sole In-house counsel at the time, I had no support  to rely upon, and this situation added an extra layer of complexity to my role.  

As a member of the Bar Council of Delhi, you have a strong command over commercial,  civil, criminal law, commercial disputes, and arbitration matters. How do you manage such  diverse areas of expertise, and what advice would you give to aspiring lawyers looking to  specialize in multiple legal fields? 

As a practicing in House counsel has to wear multiple ‘Hats’. Maintaining  proficiency in diverse areas of law, especially within the domains of commercial, civil, criminal  law, commercial disputes, and arbitration matters, requires a strategic approach and a  commitment to continuous learning. Here’s how one might manage such a range of legal  expertise: 

Foundational Knowledge: Start by building a strong foundation in each area of law. This  involves studying the fundamental principles, key statutes, and landmark cases that pertain to  each field. 

Continuous Learning: The legal landscape is constantly evolving. Stay updated with changes  in laws, regulations, and judicial interpretations across all the fields you’re focusing on. This  might involve regularly attending legal seminars, workshops, webinars, and reading industry  publications.  

Time Management: Juggling multiple fields requires effective time management. Allocate  specific time blocks for each area of expertise, ensuring that you’re dedicating sufficient time  to remain well-versed in each one. 

Mentorship and Networking: Connect with seasoned professionals who specialize in each  field. Their guidance and insights can offer invaluable practical knowledge that complements  your theoretical understanding.  

Technology and Research Tools: Leverage technology and legal research tools to efficiently  gather information across multiple fields. Online databases and legal research platforms can  help streamline your information gathering process.  

Practical Experience: Practical experience is crucial. Engage in internships, clerkships, or  positions where you can gain hands-on exposure in each field. Practical insights often solidify  theoretical knowledge. 

Adaptability: Be adaptable and open to change. Legal fields can evolve rapidly, and being  flexible in your approach allows you to incorporate new developments effectively.

Remember that gaining expertise in multiple legal fields is an ongoing process. It requires  dedication, curiosity, and a willingness to embrace challenges as opportunities for growth.  

In your current role as Associate Director Legal & Compliance – Chief Compliance Officer  & Product Legal at VerSe Innovation Private Limited, what are some of the most critical  compliance challenges you face in the digital media industry? How do you ensure compliance  with the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code)  Rules, 2021?  

As the Associate Director Legal & Compliance – Chief Compliance Officer &  Product Legal at VerSe Innovation Private Limited, I face a number of critical compliance  challenges in the digital media industry. These include:  

Data privacy and security: The digital media industry is constantly generating and  collecting large amounts of user data. This data is often sensitive and must be protected  from unauthorized access, disclosure, or misuse.  

Intellectual property protection: The digital media industry is also a major creator  and user of intellectual property, such as copyrights, trademarks, and patents. It is  important to ensure that this intellectual property is properly protected from  infringement. 

Content moderation: The digital media industry faces a challenge in moderating the  content that is published on its platforms. This content can range from harmful or illegal  content to content that is simply offensive or controversial. It is important to strike a  balance between freedom of expression and the need to protect users from harm.  

Compliance with local laws and regulations: The digital media industry is subject to  a variety of local laws and regulations, which can vary from country to country. It is  important to stay up-to-date on these laws and regulations and to ensure that the  company is in compliance with them.  

The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules,  2021 (IT Rules 2021) are a set of regulations that govern the functioning of intermediaries and  digital media platforms in India. These rules impose a number of obligations on intermediaries  and digital media platforms, such as the removal of harmful content, the appointment of a  grievance officer, and the compliance with a code of ethics.  

I ensure compliance with the IT Rules 2021 by:  

Establishing a robust compliance framework: This framework includes policies and  procedures for managing data privacy, intellectual property, content moderation, and  compliance with local laws and regulations.  

Providing training to employees: Employees are regularly trained on the company’s  compliance policies and procedures.  

Monitoring compliance: The company has a system for monitoring compliance with  the IT Rules 2021 and other relevant laws and regulations.  

Responding to complaints: The company has a system for responding to complaints  about the content that is published on its platforms. 

I believe that these measures are effective in ensuring compliance with the IT Rules 2021 and  other relevant laws and regulations. However, the digital media industry is constantly evolving,  and it is important to be prepared for new challenges that may arise in the future.  

You have provided legal advice for various strategic commercial projects and technology  deployments. Can you share a specific project that you found particularly challenging and how  you navigated the legal complexities involved?  

One project that I found particularly challenging was the development of a new machine learning powered content moderation platform. The platform was designed to  automatically detect and remove harmful content from VerSe Innovation’s platforms. However,  there were a number of legal challenges that needed to be addressed in order to develop and  deploy the platform.  

One challenge was the need to comply with the IT Rules 2021. These rules require  intermediaries and digital media platforms to remove harmful content, in accordance with the  verbiage in the IT Rules 2021. This meant that we had to carefully consider the different types  of content that could be considered harmful and develop a system for detecting and removing  this content as per the platform policies .  

We also had to consider the potential impact of the platform on freedom of expression. The  platform would be able to remove content that was considered harmful, but it was important to  strike a balance between protecting users from harm and allowing for freedom of expression.  We navigated the legal complexities involved in this project by working closely with the  company’s moderation and engineering team. The platform has been successful in removing  harmful content from VerSe Innovation’s platforms and has helped to create a safer and more  inclusive online environment.  

I learned a lot from this project about the challenges of developing and deploying new  technologies in the digital media industry. I also learned the importance of working closely  with tech team and content moderation experts to navigate the legal complexities involved in  these projects. 

Throughout your career, you have been involved in drafting, reviewing, and negotiating  various agreements, including technology, gaming, banking, and real estate agreements. What  key aspects do you consider when reviewing and negotiating these agreements, and what are  some common pitfalls that people should be aware of?  

During my professional journey, my involvement in drafting, reviewing, and  negotiating a range of agreements spanning technology, gaming, banking, and real estate has  highlighted several crucial aspects to consider, as well as common pitfalls to avoid; 

(i) an  agreement must use clear, unambiguous language to define terms, obligations, and rights of the  parties involved; 

(ii) the draft agreement clearly outlines the scope and purpose of the agreement.  This helps prevent misunderstandings regarding the parties’ intentions; 

(iii) explicitly detail the  responsibilities and obligations of each party; 

(iv) the draft should address intellectual property rights, licenses, and permissions thoroughly. determine who owns what, and how rights are  granted or licensed; 

(v) clearly define payment terms, including amounts, frequency, and  methods of payment. Include provisions for late payments, interest, and penalties; 

(vi) outline  the conditions under which the agreement can be terminated and the process for doing so.  Address any consequences of termination; 

(vii) specify the mechanisms for resolving disputes,  whether through negotiation, mediation, arbitration, or litigation; 

(viii) establish protocols for  handling confidential information and trade secrets, including restrictions on disclosure and  use; 

(x) address liabilities, including limitations on liability, indemnification obligations, and  insurance requirements; 

(xi) Account for unforeseen events that might impact the execution of  the agreement, such as natural disasters or unforeseen circumstances. 

Common Pitfalls to Avoid:  

Incomplete or Ambiguous Terms: Vague or incomplete clauses can lead to  misunderstandings and disputes down the line.  

Ignoring Local Laws: Failing to consider applicable laws and regulations can result in non compliance and legal issues. 

Unequal Bargaining Power: Negotiating parties with disparate power dynamics can lead to  unfair terms or misunderstandings.  

Lack of Exit Strategy: Without clear exit provisions, parties might face challenges when  terminating an agreement prematurely. 

Weak Dispute Resolution Mechanisms: Poorly defined dispute resolution processes can  prolong conflicts and escalate costs.  

When reviewing and negotiating agreements, it’s essential to consult with the business team who  have specific the real intent of the deal or transaction. As a legal professional, I can help identify  potential issues, offer solutions, and ensure that the agreement aligns with the parties’ intentions  and relevant legal frameworks. 

You have also advised on fundraisers and conducted due diligence on M&A activities. What  are the essential factors to consider during due diligence, particularly in terms of data privacy,  anti-corruption, and product compliance?  

A legal due diligence report is a comprehensive review of a target company’s legal  compliance status. It typically includes a review of the company’s corporate compliance,  contracts, licenses, employees, properties, intellectual property, and litigation. The report is  used to identify any potential legal risks associated with the company and to help the investor 

negotiate the transaction documents. The outcome of the due diligence process can have a  significant impact on the negotiations of the transaction documents. The report should highlight  any risks that the investor may face and propose solutions or mitigation strategies. It is also  important to complete the due diligence process in a timely manner so that the definitive  agreements can be negotiated and executed.  

The essential factors to consider during due diligence, particularly in terms of data privacy,  anti-corruption, and product compliance, include:  

• Data privacy: This includes the collection, use, and storage of personal data. You need  to ensure that the company complies with all applicable data privacy laws and  regulations.  

• Anti-corruption: This includes the prevention of bribery and other corrupt practices.  You need to ensure that the company has in place adequate anti-corruption controls,  such as a code of conduct and a whistleblowing policy.  

• Product compliance: This includes ensuring that the company’s products comply with  all applicable laws and regulations. This can be a complex area, as there are many  different laws and regulations that may apply, depending on the product, market and  the user base.  

As a seasoned professional, what advice would you give to fresh graduates who are  entering the legal field? Are there any skills or areas of specialization that you would  recommend focusing on for a successful legal career? 

Fresh law graduates should focus on developing a deep understanding of their  practice area and the laws relating to it. This is important because it will give them a strong  foundation for their career. It is also important to be patient and willing to learn. There is no  one right way to practice law, and it takes time to find your own style. Don’t be afraid to explore  different areas of law, but be prepared to put in the hard work to succeed. It is also important  to never get discouraged. The legal profession is a demanding one, but it is also very rewarding.  There is always room for improvement, so keep learning and growing. Some key qualities or  skills that are important for fresh law graduates include: 

• Discipline: Being able to manage your time and stay focused on your work.  

• Willingness to learn: Being open to new ideas and feedback.  

• Updating yourself every day: Keeping up with the latest legal developments.  

       • Hard work and street-smart work: Being willing to put in the effort to succeed.  

• Being a team player: Being able to work effectively with others.  

• Time management: Being able to manage your time effectively.

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