“While collaborating with legal counsels and law firms, I’ve found that effective communication and alignment of objectives are paramount to successful partnerships and achieving our goals”- Trushil Vora, Head – Legal at Aditya Birla Sun Life Asset Management

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

Could you share a bit about your journey into the field of law, particularly what drew you to specialize in Funds, Banking, Finance, Debt Capital Markets, and Corporate Laws?

My journey into the field of law has been shaped by a combination of rigorous academic training and hands-on experience across prestigious institutions and diverse sectors. Graduating from Gujarat National Law University (GNLU) and subsequently studying at The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) broadened my perspective on legal principles and practices.

At GNLU, I had the privilege of learning from some of the best legal minds in the country. The practical insights gained from internships at firms like Little & Co., Nishith Desai Associates and ALMT Legal complemented my theoretical learning, providing invaluable exposure to real-world legal challenges.

Continuing my academic journey at LSE, one of the world’s top law schools, deepened my understanding of global legal frameworks and their intersection with business dynamics. Interacting with students from diverse backgrounds enriched my perspective, fostering adaptability and cultural sensitivity, qualities crucial for navigating the complexities of a globalized legal landscape.

My passion for law stems from a problem-solving mindset, drawn to complex legal issues that demand innovative and business-friendly solutions. Internships provided me with early exposure to complex legal issues within Funds, Banking, Finance, Debt Capital Markets, and Corporate Laws. Specializing in Funds, Banking, Finance, Debt Capital Markets, and Corporate Laws aligns with my inclination towards strategic thinking and continuous learning. These areas offer a diverse range of legal challenges across various business sectors, avoiding monotony and stimulating intellectual curiosity.

Throughout my 15-year journey as a legal professional, I’ve had the privilege of working directly under lawyers who are stalwarts in their respective areas of practice. Their mentorship provided invaluable guidance, reinforcing the importance of understanding client business and delivering practical, strategic legal counsel.

My experiences working across prestigious law firms and in an in-house role at Aditya Birla Sun Life AMC Limited, have honed my skills in navigating complex legal landscapes. Today, as the Head of the Legal Team, I draw upon this diverse background to provide innovative solutions that drive business growth and mitigate risks effectively.

In essence, my journey into law has been guided by a quest for continuous learning, a passion for problem-solving, and a commitment to delivering value-driven legal solutions. Specializing in Funds, Banking, Finance, Debt Capital Markets, and Corporate Laws allows me to leverage these strengths while contributing to the success of my clients (internal stakeholders in my current role) and organizations.

As the Head of Legal at Aditya Birla Sun Life AMC Limited, you oversee various legal aspects, including contract management and dispute resolution. What challenges do you commonly face in these areas, and how do you navigate them?

As the Head of Legal at Aditya Birla Sun Life AMC Limited, I oversee various legal aspects, including contract management and dispute resolution, in a dynamic industry fraught with unique challenges. With our diverse lines of business spanning mutual funds, alternate investment funds, and portfolio management services, navigating the rapidly changing regulatory landscape presents intricate and ever-evolving legal hurdles.

Our team’s strategic approach to managing these challenges is rooted in a clear and systematic process. We begin by meticulously understanding the nuanced business requirements and objectives, engaging closely with stakeholders across different verticals. This ensures that our legal strategies are not only legally sound but also seamlessly aligned with the company’s overarching goals and group’s values.

Simultaneously, we systematically analyze legal risks associated with each initiative, conducting thorough due diligence and staying attuned to regulatory developments. Continuous learning and regularly tracking regulations are essential aspects of our legal operations. We subscribe to legal resources and newsletters to remain abreast of the latest legal developments, ensuring our business objectives are consistently aligned with regulatory requirements.

One common challenge we frequently encounter is understanding the mindset of concerned stakeholders and persuading them to accept a path that is not only legally and regulatorily compliant but also aligned with the company’s overarching goals. This often involves engaging with and convincing stakeholders to deviate from their initial approach in favor of a more legally sound solution.

We have implemented robust legal policies and processes to ensure that documents, matters, and notices do not escape legal scrutiny, thereby protecting the organization from exposure to legal risks. Additionally, we engage in continuously sensitizing employees and conducting training to ensure they understand the legal processes, rules, and regulations applicable to them, further safeguarding the company against legal risks.

Leveraging legal technology for contract and litigation management enhances operational efficiency and saves time, enabling us to proactively focus on identifying potential pitfalls and implementing preemptive measures. Each team member plays a defined and vital role, fostering collaboration in resolving legal challenges effectively.

Whether it’s crafting tailored contracts, providing strategic advice to senior management, or implementing proactive risk management strategies, our actions are guided by a deep understanding of both business imperatives and legal intricacies.

By following this clear and systematic approach, we not only mitigate legal risk but also contribute to the achievement of our broader strategic objectives. Our focus on understanding business requirements, assessing legal risks, leveraging legal expertise, and harnessing technology for enhanced efficiency ensures that we remain agile and responsive in addressing the evolving legal landscape.

With your extensive experience in collaborating with legal counsels and law firms, what strategies do you employ to ensure effective communication and alignment of objectives between your team and external legal partners?

While collaborating with legal counsels and law firms, I’ve found that effective communication and alignment of objectives are paramount to successful partnerships and achieving our goals. One strategy I employ is to establish clear lines of communication from the outset, ensuring that expectations, timelines, and deliverables are clearly defined and understood by all parties.

Regular communication channels, such as scheduled meetings and status updates, help maintain alignment and ensure that any issues or concerns are addressed promptly. Additionally, I believe in fostering an open and collaborative environment where both internal and external teams feel comfortable sharing ideas, feedback, and insights.

Furthermore, I prioritize building strong relationships with our external legal partners, fostering trust and mutual respect. By understanding each other’s strengths, capabilities, and areas of expertise, we can leverage our collective knowledge and experience to achieve common objectives.

Lastly, I believe in the importance of ongoing feedback and evaluation to assess the effectiveness of our collaboration efforts. This allows us to identify areas for improvement and make adjustments as needed to ensure continued alignment and success.

Overall, effective communication, collaboration, and relationship-building are key strategies I employ to ensure alignment of objectives between my team and external legal partners.

You’ve been instrumental in implementing legal training programs for employees. How do you approach balancing regulatory adherence with fostering a culture of innovation within the legal department?

As a leader in the legal department, I’ve been implementing legal training programs for employees, and I approach balancing regulatory adherence with fostering a culture of innovation through a multifaceted strategy.

Firstly, I prioritize creating a culture of trust and autonomy within the team. This involves providing flexibility for innovative thinking while ensuring strict adherence to regulatory requirements. By empowering team members to think creatively within the bounds of law, I encourage innovative solutions while upholding legal standards.

Secondly, continuous legal development is crucial. Our organization invests in ongoing education initiatives, such as seminars, workshops, and access to online resources, to keep the team updated with the latest legal developments. This ensures that innovation is informed by a comprehensive understanding of regulatory requirements.

Additionally, practical exposure and direct interaction opportunities with key stakeholders play a significant role. By involving team members in meetings, negotiations, and other crucial aspects of legal practice, I foster a deeper understanding of legal and regulatory challenges and encourage innovative approaches to address them.

Ultimately, my approach aims to strike a balance between regulatory adherence and fostering innovation. By creating an environment of trust, investing in continuous legal education, and providing practical exposure, we cultivate a culture where innovation thrives within the applicable legal and regulatory framework.

Happy to address this alternate question instead – “You’ve handled transactions in banking and project finance, leading negotiations and client meetings. Can you share a particularly challenging project you managed and how you successfully navigated it?”

One particularly challenging project I managed involved transactions in banking and project finance, where I served as the legal counsel for a consortium of about 20 lenders, comprising significantly large banks. The complexity of the project lay not only in the intricacies of the transaction but also in the sheer scale of stakeholders involved, each with their own unique perspectives and priorities.

As the legal advisor representing the lenders, one of the most daunting challenges was to navigate the decision-making process among the consortium members. With a large number of stakeholders, each with varying degrees of influence and interests, reaching a consensus on critical legal matters posed a considerable challenge.

To address this challenge and streamline the decision-making process, I proposed a solution that ultimately proved to be highly effective. I suggested forming a steering committee comprising the top five lenders by contribution and size. This committee would be tasked with making decisions on legal challenges and strategic matters, thereby expediting the decision-making process and ensuring that key decisions were made in a timely manner.

Despite initial skepticism from some stakeholders, I was able to effectively communicate the benefits of this approach and garner support for the formation of the steering committee. By highlighting the advantages of having a smaller, more agile decision-making body, I was able to overcome resistance and gain consensus among the lenders.

The implementation of the steering committee proved to be a game-changer for the project. With a more streamlined decision-making process and faster resolutions to legal challenges, we were able to expedite the transaction timeline significantly. By empowering the steering committee to take decisive action, we minimized delays, resolved issues proactively, and ultimately closed the transaction in a remarkably short time frame.

This experience taught me the importance of creative problem-solving and effective stakeholder management in complex transactions. By proposing a solution that addressed the specific challenges of the project and gaining buy-in from key stakeholders, I was able to navigate a challenging situation successfully and achieve a positive outcome for all parties involved.

Given your expertise in legal risk mitigation and fraud prevention, could you share some key strategies or best practices for identifying and addressing potential legal risks within financial institutions?

In my experience, effective legal risk mitigation and fraud prevention within financial institutions require a multifaceted approach that combines proactive measures with ongoing vigilance. Some key strategies and best practices include:

  • Conducting thorough risk assessments: Regularly assess the legal and regulatory landscape to identify emerging risks and vulnerabilities. This involves analyzing regulatory changes, market trends, and internal processes to pinpoint areas of potential exposure.
  • Implementing robust compliance programs: Develop comprehensive compliance programs that are tailored to the specific regulatory requirements and business operations of the financial institution. This includes establishing clear policies, procedures, and controls to ensure adherence to legal and regulatory standards.
  • Enhancing due diligence processes: Strengthen due diligence processes for onboarding clients, vendors, and business partners to mitigate the risk of fraud and misconduct. Conduct thorough background checks, verify credentials, and assess potential risks before entering into any business relationships.
  • Promoting a culture of compliance: Foster a culture of compliance throughout the organization by providing regular training, education, and awareness programs to employees. Encourage open communication channels for reporting potential issues and promote ethical behavior at all levels.
  • Implementing robust internal controls: Establish robust internal controls and monitoring mechanisms to detect and prevent fraudulent activities. This includes implementing segregation of duties, regular audits, and reviews of financial transactions to identify anomalies and potential red flags.
  • Leveraging technology and data analytics: Utilize technology-driven solutions and data analytics tools to enhance fraud detection and prevention capabilities. Implement advanced monitoring systems, artificial intelligence, and machine learning algorithms to identify patterns of suspicious behavior and potential fraud risks.
  • Collaborating with regulatory authorities and industry peers: Maintain open communication channels with regulatory authorities and collaborate with industry peers to share best practices, insights, and emerging trends in legal risk mitigation and fraud prevention.

By adopting these strategies and best practices, financial institutions can proactively identify and address potential legal risks, safeguarding their reputation, financial integrity, and long-term viability.

Your career trajectory showcases a progression from Associate to Head of Legal. What were some pivotal moments or lessons learned along the way that contributed to your professional growth and leadership development?

My career journey from Associate to Head of Legal has been shaped by pivotal moments and invaluable lessons that have contributed significantly to my professional growth and leadership development.

One such pivotal aspect has been the opportunity to work directly under legal stalwarts in their respective fields. Their mentorship and guidance have been instrumental in shaping my approach to legal practice, imparting invaluable insights and best practices that have enriched my skill set and strategic thinking.

Moreover, collaborating closely with business heads and key stakeholders has provided me with a deep understanding of their perspectives and priorities. This exposure to the business side of operations has been transformative, enabling me to offer innovative, business-friendly solutions to legal challenges. Understanding the business goals, challenges, and industry dynamics has allowed me to deliver tailored solutions that align seamlessly with our business objectives.

Furthermore, working across diverse sectors has provided me with a unique perspective, allowing me to view legal issues through the lens of a businessman. This holistic understanding of client expectations and business realities has been particularly invaluable in my current role at Aditya Birla Sun Life AMC Limited.

In essence, the combination of mentorship from legal experts, collaboration with business leaders, and exposure to diverse sectors has been key to my professional growth and leadership development. These experiences have not only enhanced my legal acumen but also honed my ability to provide strategic counsel that drives business success.

Finally, what advice would you offer to fresh graduates aspiring to pursue a career in law, especially those interested in the areas of Funds, Banking, Finance, and Corporate Laws?

For fresh graduates aspiring to carve a career path in law, particularly in the domains of Funds, Banking, Finance, and Corporate Laws, my advice revolves around fostering a strong foundation in legal fundamentals and cultivating a solution-oriented mindset.

Firstly, it’s paramount to build a robust understanding of core legal principles such as the Contract Act, Companies Act, Transfer of Property Act, and principles of interpretation. These foundational laws serve as the cornerstone upon which specialized areas like finance and corporate law are constructed. By mastering these fundamentals, young lawyers can develop a solid framework for analyzing legal issues and offering effective solutions to clients.

Additionally, I urge aspiring lawyers to adopt a solution-oriented approach to problem-solving. Clients in fields like finance and corporate law often seek pragmatic solutions to intricate legal challenges. Rather than just identifying problems, young lawyers should focus on crafting innovative and practical solutions that address clients’ underlying needs and objectives. This necessitates critical thinking, creativity, and a readiness to explore alternative legal avenues.

Moreover, maintaining a curious mindset and a commitment to continuous learning is crucial. Given the dynamic nature of finance and corporate law, staying updated with legal developments and industry trends is imperative. Aspiring lawyers should embrace opportunities for learning, ask pertinent questions, and seek growth opportunities to enhance their problem-solving skills and legal acumen.

Lastly, I encourage young lawyers to seek mentorship and guidance from seasoned professionals in the field. Learning from experienced practitioners can offer invaluable insights, practical wisdom, and networking opportunities that accelerate career growth and development.

In summary, my advice to fresh graduates aspiring for a rewarding career in finance and corporate law is to prioritize building strong legal fundamentals, adopting a solution-driven mindset, fostering curiosity and continuous learning, and seeking mentorship from experienced professionals. Embracing these principles equips aspiring lawyers to embark on a fulfilling and impactful journey in the legal profession.

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