“The modern landscape of MNCs demands a new breed of in-house counsel – one with a foot in both the legal and commercial worlds”- Aneed Charles, Global Legal Head at Contemi Solutions

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

Could you share with us your journey from being a private practice lawyer to transitioning into corporate legal work? What inspired this shift in your career path?

Absolutely! My legal journey started in the courtroom. Litigation was exhilarating and the adrenaline rush was unmatched. While in private practice I got to meet business leaders and in-house counsels and that sparked my curiosity. I liked the idea of moving from reacting to legal issues to proactively preventing them. Corporate legal work is a different kind of challenge, but equally rewarding, and more aligned to my interests. It is a fascinating intersection of law and business, and that’s what keeps me energized.  

With over two decades of experience in legal and contracts support for various MNCs, what motivated you to specialize in business law and pursue further education in this field?

In the past two decades the landscape in law and business has constantly evolved and how!

New regulations emerged, technology transformed business models, and the global market became even more interconnected. I saw a growing need for legal expertise that wasn’t just about litigation or specific statutes, but one that could anticipate and adapt to these fast-changing dynamics. This drew me to specialize in business law. There is a need and opportunity to bridge the gap between legal intricacies and real-world business challenges. Lawyers who can bridge this gap can bring a lot of value to businesses. 

Given your extensive background in legal review, commercial transactions, and leadership roles, how do you perceive the evolving role of in-house counsel in modern multinational corporations?

In-house counsel is no longer just the guardian of compliance. The modern landscape of MNCs demands a new breed of in-house counsel – one with a foot in both the legal and commercial worlds. Here is how I see the role evolving:

·         Business Acumen: The new in-house counsel speaks the language of business and translates legal complexities into actionable insights for business leaders.

·         Collaborative Catalysts: The new role of in-house counsel requires us to break down silos and foster strong relationships with internal stakeholders.  

·         Global Mindset & Cultural Awareness: MNCs operate across diverse cultures and legal systems. In-house counsel of new MNCs need to be culturally sensitive, understanding local nuances and navigating them effectively.  

In essence, the ideal in-house counsel today has evolved from a legal SME to an SME, translator, and a collaborator all rolled into one. It’s an exciting evolution.

You mentioned the importance of understanding business challenges and collaborating with business leadership. Could you elaborate on how this approach has shaped your role as General Counsel at Contemi Group?

At Contemi, fostering a collaborative environment where legal expertise empowers business decisions has been a cornerstone of my approach. Here are a few ways this has played out in my role:

1.     Strategic Partner, Not Just Legal Gatekeeper: I don’t see myself as someone who simply says “yes” or “no” to contracts or legal queries. Instead, I work closely with business teams from the outset, understanding their objectives and potential risks. This allows us to structure deals together that are not just legally sound, but also commercially advantageous for Contemi.

2.     Translating Legalese into Business Language: Complex legal jargon can often create a communication gap. I bridge this gap by simplifying legal concepts and translating them into actionable insights for business leaders. This allows them to make informed decisions faster, based on a clear understanding of the legal implications.

By fostering a collaborative environment and prioritizing open communication, legal expertise becomes a powerful tool for driving business success.     

In your current role at Contemi, what are some of the most significant legal challenges you’ve faced, and how have you navigated them to ensure compliance within an ever-changing regulatory landscape?

Navigating the ever-changing regulatory landscape is an ongoing challenge. Here are two specific examples I’ve encountered, and how I’ve tackled them:

Ensuring Global Data Privacy Compliance with Evolving Regulations

The world of data privacy is a complex and constantly evolving landscape. We faced the challenge of ensuring compliance with a patchwork of international data privacy regulations like GDPR and Singapore PDPA.

  • Proactive Approach: We appointed DPOs for each of our geography, and slowly built a data privacy task force. This team keeps a pulse on emerging regulations and proactively identifies potential compliance risks.
  • Standardized Processes: We developed standardized data privacy protocols that can be easily adapted to meet the specific requirements of different jurisdictions. This ensures consistency and reduces the risk of non-compliance.
  • Employee Training: We also ensured that our employees are trained periodically on data handling best practices and their responsibilities under various data privacy regulations.

Mitigating Risks Associated with Global Expansion

Contemi is a growing company with aspirations for international expansion. This presents legal challenges in terms of navigating the diverse legal and regulatory environments of new markets.

  • Standardization with Flexibility: We developed standardized legal templates for common contracts like NDAs and service agreements. However, these templates are designed to be adaptable to incorporate specific requirements of each jurisdiction.
  • Scenario Planning: I work closely with the business development team to conduct risk assessments for potential new markets. This allows us to proactively identify potential legal hurdles and develop mitigation strategies before entering a new territory.

Transitioning from companies like EY, DXC, and Cognizant to Contemi Group, what attracted you to this specific organization, and how does its focus on FinTech align with your career objectives?

That’s a great question. While my experience at EY, DXC, and Cognizant was invaluable, Contemi offered a unique opportunity that aligned with my evolving career goals. Here’s what drew me in:

1. From Established Player to Disruptive Innovator: The established giants I worked for were industry leaders, but there’s a thrill in being part of a disruptive innovator like Contemi.

2. Business Impact in Real-Time: At larger corporations, the impact of legal decisions can be somewhat distant. At Contemi, the legal function directly impacts the success of our solutions. This fosters a deep sense of meaning for my day-to-day work.  

3. Growth Potential and a Collaborative Culture: Contemi is a growing company with a vibrant and collaborative culture. This fosters a dynamic environment where I can continuously learn, develop new skills, and take on fresh challenges.

As someone deeply involved in global transactions and SaaS contracting, what advice would you offer to legal professionals aiming to specialize in these areas within the tech industry?

Here’s my two cents.

1. Deepen your understanding of technology: The tech industry is constantly evolving. Familiarize yourself with core technological concepts like cloud computing and AI. This will allow you to better understand the technical aspects of the contracts you’ll be working on.

2. Understand Data Privacy:  Develop a strong understanding of data privacy laws and stay updated on emerging regulations in this space.

3. Understand how SaaS works: SaaS contracts are unique and the various considerations are different from traditional software license agreements, because that is how SaaS technology is structured. There is a lot of materials available online to familiarize yourself with industry-standard SaaS metrics, how they have evolved and how they are reflected in modern day contracts.

4. Never stop learning: The legal landscape, particularly in the tech sector, is constantly evolving. Develop a commitment to lifelong learning.

Lastly, drawing from your wealth of experience, what guidance would you give to fresh graduates aspiring to pursue a career in law, particularly those considering a path in corporate or business law?

Here’s some guidance from my experience:

1. Cultivate Business Acumen: Legal expertise is crucial, but business savvy is a game-changer. Consider pursuing certifications in business administration, corporate governance or finance.  

2. Network, Network, Network: Start early! Connect with legal professionals on LinkedIn, attend industry events, participate in online forums and reach out to alumni working in corporate law. A strong network can be a valuable source of mentorship, job opportunities, and industry insights.

3. Develop Time Management Skills: Technical skills are important, but don’t underestimate the power of time management in this role. It is essential for success in a fast-paced corporate environment.

4. Find Your Niche: The legal field is vast. Explore different areas of corporate law like mergers & acquisitions, intellectual property, or employment law. Find a niche that aligns with your interests and consider pursuing relevant certifications.

But all that said; there is nowhere to ‘reach’. So enjoy the journey and its ups and downs!

Get in touch with Aneed Charles-

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