“With AI coming in a big way the work of a new age lawyer has become more challenging as now you need to become more aware and be more updated on the legal developments than ever before”- Debashish Josh, Head Corporate Counsel at Wipro Technologies UK

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

Can you share with us what initially drew you to the field of law and how your journey began?

I come from a family of legal professionals as my father was a tax lawyer and so was my grandfather. Science was my major subject in school and I was good in Maths and like many of my batchmates wanted to become an engineer, however destiny had different plans, After I completed my graduation with honours in English I was encouraged by my father to appear for the various law school exams and consider law as a career option. Thankfully, I scored well and qualified for the University law LLB programme (three year course) and then did well and stood second overall in my LLB course. This success led me to think big and then I got selected for the LLM course (specialisation in Business Law) from NLSIU, Bangalore. However, the real interest in Law really took shape in NLSIU Bangalore with the help of modern analytical way of teaching and under the guidance of reputed professors of law in the University. Want to mention a few eminent teachers like Professor Devidas, Professor Ramakrishna, Professor Jayagovind, Professor Pillai who were key in shaping up my understanding and knowledge of Law and taking the first stepping stone in my career.

Reflecting on your 16+ years of experience, can you discuss some key milestones that have shaped your career as the Head of Legal for UK & Ireland at Wipro Ltd.?

Some of the key milestones that have shaped my career as the Head of the function in UK and Ireland are the following:

  • Working on numerous large deals (over 100 Mn GBP) across business lines and executing them efficiently by working closely with the key stakeholders like the Business, Finance, Delivery, Risk, Data Privacy, Human resources. 
  • Being part of the overall UKI leadership team and contributing effectively to the strategic development of the company over the years.
  • Helping the Business et up a new regulated company by ensuring that the right compliances are taken care of especially compliances with respect to FCA ,
  • Managing and supervising a team of lawyers which was working offshore and helping them act as business enablers and grow within the organisation.
  • Working closely as a data protection point of contact for all incidents related to data protection compliance and working with regulatory authorities in case of a data breach incident.
  • Coordinating efficiently with external counsels and seeking advice in case of large disputes and helping the company navigate through the entire lifecycle of a court case.

You’ve managed litigation and represented clients in various legal proceedings. Can you highlight a particularly challenging case and how you navigated it?

The case was with a client in the energy sector and lasted for over 4 years and went through two rounds of mediations. It was extremely complex with issues related to contractual breach and here I was required to be very close with our external advisors in close tandem and brief them about the facts which were quite unique and technical. Had to coordinate with solution architects, delivery managers, finance leads to communicate the entire spectrum of facts to the lawyers and experts. It was a long drawn case which demanded every bit of your attention to finer details especially on the factual aspect and eventually got settled recently amicably in the best ineterst of the company.

Your experience with IT agreements is extensive. What are some of the unique challenges you’ve faced when drafting and negotiating contracts in the rapidly evolving IT sector?

In the rapidly evolving IT sector what has become more challenging is that the opportunity to really negotiate on contractual terms have come down significantly to what used to happen say five years ago, Now it more of being compliant with the bid/tender terms and conditions and working your way through the various stages of the contract submission stage, where you work closely with the business stakeholders/leaders in understanding the risk and pain areas and then managing or mitigating the risk to the best of the organisation operational and commercial ability.

You’ve led successful deal closures with significant values. Can you walk us through one of these high-stakes negotiations and what strategies you employed to ensure success?

This is with regards to one particular deal with a retail client of repute and where we had to work through various stages of negotiation:

  • In the first stage where we had marked up the contract we had numerous points and many were at high level and not necessarily very specific. In the discussions that happened we had a few disconnects with the opposing legal side and had to take many of the contentious points back to re-evaluate and come back.
  • We went back and weighed in our positions and options available with close interactions with all key stakeholders be it HR for transfer of people, IP team for intellectual property clauses, operations for service level agreements, finance for penalties and liquidated damages.
  • We aligned well and our revised positions meet the customer requirements for a successful tender without compromising the business and commercial interest of the organisation.
  • The strategy here was of striking the right balance in our high stake negotiation and also as a legal function being a business enabler which helped our company win such a prestigious deal.

You’ve worked closely with partners from top global law firms. How has this collaboration influenced your approach to legal practice and client representation?

Yes indeed as this has certainly being beneficial in not resolving complex issues arising from many of the company deals or disputes but has also helped in building lot of relationships across the industry where you personally have gained through knowing many of the partners, who are experts in their field of practice and have contributed immensely to the legal industry at large through their knowledge in fields of data protection, regulatory matters, employment claims and disputes and contract drafting and negotiations.

Given your experience with diverse regulatory matters, how do you stay ahead of the ever-changing legal landscape, particularly in areas like data protection and compliance?

Ever Changing legal landscape is quite fascinating as you understand the new age technology developments in artificial intelligence, data protection , intellectual property etc. With AI coming in a big way the work of a new age lawyer has become more challenging as now you need to become more aware and be more updated on the legal developments than ever before and one way of doing it is to attend as many knowledge disseminating seminars, workshops, summits as much possible and getting out of your comfort zone and walking the extra mile to know more about the technology and the business changes. Trainings are also an integral part in our company and there are various customised training programmes which are designed to help lawyers to go through and learn more on the development on the technology. 

Finally, what advice would you give to fresh law graduates who are just starting out and aiming to build a successful career in corporate law?

I think the fundamental thing which is extremely important is the desire to learn and keep learning all the time. Be it research on tools or reading new articles or attending seminars, conferences, workshops etc. Also, please shed all inhibitions and please ask questions and not be shy about anything which apparently seems pretty straightforward as an answer. Also, be as scientific and as rational as possible and keep developing your strengths and improve on your weaknesses. The final point which I feel is highly critical is building relationships and knowing and understanding people from diverse fields in areas of work, though they may belong to different fields like being a technical architect or an enterprise risk manager or a information security associate. One will always do something again if they strike the right conversations.

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