“Resolving disputes in derivative transactions presents unique challenges, often rooted in complex financial structures and regulatory nuances”- Smrithi Nair, Partner at Juris Corp

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

Can you share with us your journey and how you ended up practicing law, particularly in the areas of Capital Markets, Derivatives, Financial Services & Regulatory, and Payment and Settlement Systems?

Certainly. Given my interest in commerce, business law and financing I pursued a bachelor’s degree in Commerce. My further interest in the field of law led me to pursue a degree of Bachelor of Commerce (BCom) in 2010. I started my professional career as an Article Clerk at Kanga & Co, gaining valuable experience from August 2011 to August 2013 under the guidance of Mr. Dhaval Vussonji and Ms. Prachi Dave. During this time, I honed my legal skills and developed a keen interest in the intricacies of financial law.

You have a specialization in debt issuances and marked-linked debentures. How did you develop an interest in this area of law, and what are some of the notable projects or transactions you’ve worked on?

My specialization in debt issuances and market-linked debentures evolved over the course of my career. As an Associate at VND & Associates (now Dhaval Vussonji & Associates) and later at Juris Corp, I actively engaged in advising clients on debt issuances, which sparked my interest in this niche area. 

As someone who regularly advises the International Swaps and Derivatives Association (ISDA) and various clients in the financial industry, could you tell us about the unique challenges and opportunities that arise in the derivatives market?

Advising ISDA and diverse clients in the financial industry has exposed me to the dynamic landscape of the derivatives market. The challenges often stem from the evolving regulatory framework and the need for precise documentation. ISDA being an industry body requires me as a lawyer to think one-step ahead to foresee the practical challenges that may crop up due to the ever changing legal & regulatory landscape of India and accordingly liaising with them, market participants and the respective regulators to ensure a smooth Indian derivatives market.

ISDA has also been integral in getting my name on the international stage as a derivatives lawyer. I recently went to Singapore to deliver a masterclass on Derivatives and it was a learning experience. 

Your involvement with the Fixed Income Money Market and Derivatives Association of India (FIMMDA) and the National Stock Exchange of India Limited (NSE) showcases a broad range of experiences. How has working with these organizations contributed to your expertise in the financial services sector?

Working closely with FIMMDA and NSE has been instrumental in broadening my understanding of the financial services sector. These experiences have provided unique insights into listing compliances, platform establishment, and various facets of the financial markets. Collaborating with these organizations has been a cornerstone in developing a holistic approach to financial law.

The Payment and Settlement Systems Practice is an integral part of your work. Could you shed some light on the role of legal professionals in this area and how it impacts the functioning of financial markets?

In the Payment and Settlement Systems Practice, legal professionals play a crucial role in ensuring the smooth functioning of financial markets. Our responsibilities include navigating regulatory requirements, advising on compliance, and addressing legal challenges to maintain the integrity of payment and settlement systems. By doing so, we contribute to the stability and efficiency of the broader financial ecosystem.

You’ve authored several articles and publications related to derivatives and sustainability-linked financial instruments. Can you discuss the importance of sustainability-linked derivatives in today’s financial landscape and their potential impact on green finance?

Authoring articles on sustainability-linked derivatives reflects my commitment to exploring innovative and responsible financial practices. In today’s landscape, sustainability-linked derivatives play a pivotal role in promoting environmentally conscious investments. These instruments not only align with global sustainability goals but also present opportunities for businesses to contribute to green finance, fostering a more sustainable and responsible financial sector.

Juris Corp is considered a premier law firm in the derivatives space, and you head the derivatives practice there. What sets Juris Corp apart, and how do you ensure the highest level of service for your clients?

Juris Corp stands out in the derivatives space due to its unwavering commitment to excellence and deep industry knowledge. Our team’s collective expertise, coupled with a client-centric approach, allows us to provide tailored solutions. We prioritize staying abreast of industry developments, ensuring that our clients receive the highest level of service backed by cutting-edge legal insights.

Dispute resolution is another aspect of your work, particularly concerning potential disputes arising from derivative transactions. What are some of the common challenges you face in resolving such disputes, and how do you approach these complex situations?

Resolving disputes in derivative transactions presents unique challenges, often rooted in complex financial structures and regulatory nuances. We approach these situations with a meticulous strategy, combining legal acumen with a deep understanding of the financial markets. Our goal is to achieve amicable resolutions while safeguarding our clients’ interests and maintaining the integrity of the financial agreements involved.

Throughout your career, you have conducted presentations and seminars on regulatory changes in the Indian derivatives market. Could you share some key insights from these sessions and how these changes affect derivative products?

Conducting presentations on regulatory changes in the Indian derivatives market has been an enriching experience. Key insights revolve around the need for adaptability in response to evolving regulations. Understanding these changes is vital for crafting effective legal strategies, ensuring compliance, and mitigating risks. Derivative products must align with the regulatory landscape to maintain their relevance and integrity in the market.

As a successful partner and expert in your field, what advice would you give to fresh law graduates or aspiring lawyers looking to pursue a career in the areas of Capital Markets, Derivatives, Financial Services & Regulatory, and Payment and Settlement Systems? What key skills and experiences do you think they should focus on developing?

For fresh law graduates aspiring to excel in Capital Markets, Derivatives, Financial Services & Regulatory, and Payment and Settlement Systems, I recommend focusing on a few key aspects. Firstly, build a strong foundation in financial law through continuous learning and staying updated on industry developments. Develop excellent analytical and problem-solving skills, as these areas often involve intricate legal and financial complexities, this will come with reading case laws. Networking and building relationships within the industry are also crucial, as they open doors to valuable opportunities and insights. Finally, cultivate effective communication skills, as conveying complex legal concepts to clients and colleagues is integral to success in these specialized fields.

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