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Ashima Ohri

A business economist, lawyer, and writer.

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In Conversation With Pooja Yadava, Vice President (Legal) & General Counsel, Nayara Energy

Are lean legal departments the future of in-house teams? Has business automation found more acceptance with in-house legal departments? Ms Yadava shares her thoughts on future CLDs in this exclusive interview with BW Legal World.

Please allow us a peek into your illustrious journey in law. Where did this journey begin, who were your mentors, and what keeps you busy when you’re not working.

Interestingly, I was keen to join the School of Planning and Architecture and had worked towards that in my final school years. I don’t call it a coincidence that the day I interviewed for my Law college was the examination date at SPA. An ILS Alumni, I joined a reputed law firm in Delhi and also did a stint in a prestigious law firm in UAE. The experience was more than about honing legal skills and about identifying provisions in the law books – and this is where I was blessed to have mentors who groomed to have an eye for detail, providing business solutions to clients and not reading them the law. Going in-house, was only different in terms of perspective with internal clients and stakeholders. The journey till date, as a corporate counsel initially and then leading the legal and compliance charter of India’s largest crude oil private producer has been nothing less than a learning and fulfilling experience. Priti Suri, Ian Veall, Ajit Yadav, Mukesh Bhavnani, Tom Albanese, Ajay Dixit are some of those who have been key in my journey till date. As working parents to a toddler, life is always packed and fun. I ensure we travel often and over the weekend to pot around our farm. 

What does a day in your shoes look like in your current role? 

As GC of a downstream Oil &Gas multinational company, one is always on their toes. a blend of operational, transactional and implementing process, meetings with stakeholders and team members is key. 

What are the three biggest challenges/risks that you are facing right now in your business sector? How in your opinion can these bottlenecks or roadblocks be best handled? 

It is common knowledge that the Indian economy and financial markets (along with other global economies) was severely impacted last year in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. The oil & gas sector globally in the last 24 months has been impacted due to low margins on account of lacklustre global demand for crude oil, petroleum products and also change in US-Saudi dynamics attributable to volume. These twin factors have significantly impacted revenue, liquidity, markets and consequentially growth plans. In these prevailing circumstances, easing of compliance requirements for fundraising, and enhancing the ease of investment with less governmental interventions are recommended. 

Are lean legal departments the future of in-house teams? Would you please share your thoughts and vision of CLDs of the future? 

Opex cuts are the norm in this current scenario; be it in terms of headcount or legal fees spends. Legal department structure is a component of the business model; B2B companies are expected to have a lean but high outcome-oriented team. B2C structure would differ given dynamics of more low level legal and litigation issues. Every organization has to make that choice which is more preferable to achieve a high result and low spends. 

As companies become more and more cost-conscious, has business automation found more acceptance with in-house legal departments? How does your organisation leverage AI and LegalTech within the legal function?

It is impossible to undertake activities without technical intervention and while legal dept has been slow; there is now a conscious need to make that change quickly. Contract lifecycle Mgmt, case reporting, data management, compliance reporting etc. are all key aspects of every legal dept. Leveraging AI for a greater in-depth understanding of legal cases is also on the horizon. 

Your message to the new crop of lawyers wanting to make a mark for themselves in this industry. What other than hard work is a mantra to success? 

You need to always have an eye for detail and diligence, that’s hygiene. Ultimately we all need to think like a business lawyer.

As a final note, would you please recommend to our readers your favourite book or movie/series that left a lasting impression on you. 

My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk. In terms of movies, Jaane Bhi do Yaaron, Hrishikesh Mukherjee classics, contemporary movies like Rang de Basanti, Shawshank Redemption, Jason Bourne thrillers are my favourites.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house


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