In Conversation With Chetan Chopra, Group General Counsel, TruKKer Group
Till you don't know your business cold, you will not be an effective business lawyer, says Chetan Chopra in this interview with BW Legal World's Managing Editor Ashima Ohri.
Let’s turn the wheel of time, what sparked your interest in law and drew you to the role of a general counsel?
I realized that to become an effective commercial counsel, one needs to understand the pulse of the business and apply one’s legal knowledge for effective problem solving. This curiosity led me towards the next chapter of being an inhouse counsel or as I would like to call it, as a 'Business Lawyer'.
Being a first generation lawyer, there was not much exposure to law at home during childhood. However, while growing up my inquisitive nature led me to consider law as a career.
My first internship with the great Mr. Gopal Subramanium, was my first blush with litigation and it was love at first sight! Spending 10-5 in Court and then 6-10 in office preparing for next day's brief, was a pure adrenaline rush!
This led me to start my career in litigation. Post graduation, I worked in the chambers of HMJ Sanjeev Sachdeva (while he was in private practice). Unlike a possessive senior, he reposed full faith in me. He would never hesitate to let me take lead in drafting complex pleadings and encouraged young chamber juniors to argue matters, even in the Hon’ble Apex Court. Just imagine the level of confidence boost in those times, for a fresher / young advocate to argue the matters in Supreme Court. After spending 2 years there, for the next 5 years, I worked with the disputes practice of premier law firms like JSA and SAM (Then Amarchand Mangaldas).
Throughout my stint as a litigator, I was intrigued with the commercial decisions which drove the legal strategy. I realized that to become an effective commercial counsel, one needs to understand the pulse of the business and apply one’s legal knowledge for effective problem solving.
This curiosity led me towards the next chapter of being an inhouse counsel or as I would like to call it, as a 'Business Lawyer'.
Who are some legal professionals you admire, and why? What lessons have you learned from them?
If I have to mention one person who has been there since the time I decided to pursue law, it is Mr. Siddharth Luthra
I must admit that I admire and respect all my legal colleagues in each walk of life. One gets to learn something new from everyone. In both my avatars (as a litigator and a business lawyer), I have been very fortunate enough to have worked and learnt from the best in the business, the list is too long.
However, if I have to mention one person who has been there since the time I decided to pursue law, it is Mr. Siddharth Luthra, who has been mentoring me at each and every step of my professional career. He has been so kind to take out time from his professional commitments and guide me like a north star. Definitely, this invaluable guidance has shaped my professional career and has evolved me as a better lawyer.
What would you say is your favourite quote or book related to law or leadership that resonates with you? Or what books, podcasts, or resources would you recommend to someone aspiring to follow your career path?
‘Devil lies in the details’ and ‘There is no substitute to hard work’
I think there are a lot of precious gems available, some of my personal favorites are:
Before Memory Fades- Shri F. S. Nariman
My Tryst with Justice- HMJ P. N. Bhagwati
With respect to my favorite quotes for all youngsters out there, it has to be a combination of ‘Devil lies in the details’ and ‘There is no substitute to hard work’. Please avoid any short cuts and be extremely cautious and meticulous with your work.
With respect to online material, I thoroughly enjoy watching different Indian Court videos on YouTube. It is so amazing to see how proper use of technology could unlock court room knowledge and process for lawyers across the Country.
What are your hobbies or passions outside of your legal work? How do they help you unwind and recharge?
I like traveling, watching movies, listening to music and spending time with my family and friends. Considering the stressful nature of the job, it is very important to switch-off at times and then restart fresh.
In your specific industry, what are some of the biggest challenges legal teams face currently? How are you tackling these issues?
I feel that the biggest challenge any legal team across industries face is about being considered as ‘road-block’ by the business teams.
I feel that the biggest challenge any legal team across industries face is about being considered as ‘road-block’ by the business teams. Being a gatekeeper of law and compliance, it is very important to win the trust of business. This can only happen once they feel that you are enabler and not a road-block; and the first step in this direction is to know your business like the back of your hand! In my view, you may be a great lawyer, but till you don't know your business cold, you will not be an effective business lawyer.
What tech tools or resources do you find most valuable in your day-to-day work as a legal officer?
I think the age-old legal research tools (like SCC Online, Manupatra) are still very much relevant and still remain my go to tools. As an organization, we have just embarked on the journey of exploring legal tech tools and will be the focus in the coming few months.
Looking ahead to 2024, what legal developments, trends, or challenges are top of mind for you? Why?
I think India is doing extremely great work in proactively implementing new laws on complex global problems and fixing age old issues. I am certain the legal fraternity is really excited about the introduction of the new privacy and the criminal laws recently implemented.
While things have really improved over the years, one area of opportunity is working towards speedy justice. Like other developed jurisdictions, we need to fast track the litigation process and provide speedy justice to all in 2024.
We need to fast track the litigation process and provide speedy justice to all in 2024.
If you could leave our readers with one actionable piece of advice to advance their career or personal growth, what would it be?
Well my two cents, please do not stop reading and keep yourself abreast with the latest laws and court precedents. Whether you are a litigator or business lawyer, you need to understand the pulse of the Court or Business respectively. Lastly, before advising any client, the key is to assess the risk appetite by understanding whether the risk involved is real or notional.
Do not stop reading and keep yourself abreast with the latest laws and court precedents.
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