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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