In Conversation With Vibhore Chaturvedi, VP-Legal, NIIF Infrastructure Finance Limited

In this fireside chat with Chandril Chattopadhyay, Junior Correspondent, BW Legal World, Vibhore talks about his journey in law. He talks about his mentors, the importance of AI in Law, importance of learning a foreign language and much more

Please walk us through your journey in this field of law? When did you first realize that law was your life’s calling? 

VC:Throughout my developmental years in school, I diligently immersed myself in the reading of financial and business newspapers and magazines. As the Indian economy gradually expanded its horizons, the steps that the government took to revamp the regulatory regime to stimulate domestic investors interest and attract global investments, somewhat sparked my interest in the intersection of law and finance. In law school, I delved deeper into subjects like corporate law, contract law, banking, and finance. I was captivated by the complexities of financial regulations and how businesses were structured to comply with applicable laws. 

Who according to you has been your guide and mentor in this illustrious journey as a lawyer? 

VC:Mr. Srinivas Upadhyayula, who is currently the General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer at NIIF IFL has been a great mentor and has guided me in my initial years. Also, being a first-generation lawyer, I never hesitated asking for help and guidance whenever required. I used to proactively reach out to seniors in the industry to gain insights on how one can navigate through the legal profession. I diligently observed and absorbed from people through my interactions with them at various conferences and while working with them on different transactions. Furthermore, friends from the profession and colleagues have also played a pivotal role in helping me make important decisions at various stages of my career and thus enriching my experience in the field. 

What made you learn a foreign language and how helpful it has been? 

VC:During my academic years, I opted for German as my optional subject, providing me an elementary understanding of the language. Recognizing the evolving nature of the legal industry and the increase in cross-border transactions, I decided to take the German language learning to advanced level. I cannot emphasise enough how helpful learning a foreign language can be in navigating transactions during negotiations, as it facilitates a deeper understanding of both the culture as well as the individuals involved. 

Please help us understand the practice areas you deal in and the diverse array of work you handle at NIIF Infrastructure Finance Limited? How has the transition been from working in a law firm as a group head to working as an in-house counsel? 

VC:My practice areas encompass Banking and Finance, Debt Capital Markets and Infrastructure. At NIIF IFL I oversee the legal vertical and manage end to end due diligence and transaction documentation in renewable energy and infrastructure projects with focus on highways, airports, power plants, educational institutions, hospitals.  

Transitioning from a law firm construct to an in-house environment can be a bit tricky, especially if you don't have any previous experience of being an in-house counsel. The role itself and the responsibility that comes with it is very different from that of a law firm. For me however this transition was seamless, as I already had an in house councel experience from my previous endeavours. 

Working with a law firm is exciting, where one requires a multifaceted approach encompassing business development along with transactions. It requires utmost level of efficiency and diligence to be able to deliver as a practitioner. Law Firm experience brings out the leadership skills in you by pushing you in situations which require quick thinking, work delegation, team management, administration. 

As an in-house counsel, at every step while negotiating contracts in our transactions, or advising our business team, one has to ensure that the institution’s interest is paramount. Although I come with expertise in a particular area of law, however, one has to be abreast with all key developments in areas of technology, employment and policy laws to be able to effectively contribute in the decision making process. More interaction with business and operations team enhances commercial acumen of issues at hand and an opportunity to dive deeply into issues and a holistic view of understanding the implications from various perspectives. 

Do you believe that AI and Technology will supersede the lawyering skills in the coming times, especially with the recent hype around ChatGPT and other AI softwares? 

VC:It's too early to decide if AI and technology like Chat GPT will prove to be an asset for lawyers or replace them altogether. Given the nature of technology, it has just made an entry into our lives, and we are learning to adapt and evolve with it. Having said that, it will definitely depend on how well we equip ourselves to not only use it efficiently, but also use it to our advantage. The legal profession is such that whether you work as a transactional lawyer or an independent practitioner, the human element can never be replaced by AI. Success in the legal profession is also dependent on one’s spiritual and emotional quotient, which, for now, AI software is not advanced enough to look at issues with such sensitivity and empathy. 

 What would be your message to aspiring and young students / freshers who are looking to tread a similar path? 

VC:We have so many options out there today that each aspirant has to first explore, experience, and then make a decision as to which area of law one wishes to pursue. The only way to make an informed decision about your career path is to put yourself in situations that help you understand the nature of work and the industry. Do as many internships as you can, as it will give you exposure to various sectors of law and practical experience to find your calling. Attending conferences and listening to and meeting industry leaders there can give you a holistic view of shaping your career. 

 Most importantly, don’t be in a hurry to decide or conclude whether a law firm or an in-house role will be good for you. Drawing conclusions early and having rigid perspectives limit your experiences. Focus on learning the craft well with whatever you are doing; choose an area of interest and give it the amount of time it requires, and you will see that it starts giving results as you grow.  

 What are your doing if not lawyering? What are your hobbies in general?  

VC: To pursue my personal interests; I like to explore new places and experience new cultures. I travel whenever I have time as I am particularly fascinated by Europe and it's history and have visited many countries to explore the same. To unwind, I like to read books, explore new eateries in the city and listen to podcasts on various topics. 

 As a parting note, which books would you recommend which you have liked reading? What has been your most recent read? 

 VC: Some of the books to mention that I really liked reading and could takeaway some learning are Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, Breakout Nations by Ruchir Sharma, Everybody loves a good drought by P Sainath, Does he know a mother’s heart by Arun Shourie, Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgment by Cass R. Sunstein, Daniel Kahneman, and Olivier Sibony. The book I am currently reading is India, Bharat and Pakistan: The constitutional journey of a sandwiched civilisation by J Sai Deepak. 





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