Saurabh Malhotra is GM Legal, Risk & Compliance at Intertek, a British multinational assurance, inspection, product testing and certification company headquartered in London. He has experience in the areas of Corporate-Commercial, Competition Law, Legal & Regulatory Compliance, Contracting, Legal Policy, HR legal, Litigation strategy, Compliance and Risk Management, Investigations, General Legal Advisory, Legal Trainings among others. He is alumnus of the University of Warwick and the National Law School of India University (NLSIU).
Q. You have worked as legal & compliance counsel with several well reputed companies. For the benefit of our readers, what does a compliance counsel’s job involve?
While doing business in today’s world, there are various laws and regulations at local, state, national and international/ cross border level, which apply to businesses especially those having presence in multiple jurisdictions. Furthermore, the administration and executions of these laws and regulations have also become more stringent, multijurisdictional and at times complicated, with higher penalties on businesses and individuals including civil and criminal implications.
A Legal and Compliance professional’s role in a company involves being a trusted advisor giving timely counselling and advising business partners internally from time to time to do the business in the right way, other than dealing with the external authorities from time to time whenever required. Translating and interpreting the compliance requirement into business-friendly advice and helping the business teams understand them and adhere to them is a daily affair, which in result helps the company and its employees in keeping the risk levels at the lowest.
Legal and compliance role has emerged as a niche practice area in the last decade or two where the need for having dedicated resources for legal and compliance internally by businesses has emerged strongly. I think for an in-house legal and compliance counsel, what success looks like is when he/ she is able to bridge the gaps between internal business practices and compliance requirement in a timely, cost effective and efficient manner with collaboration of all the business partners.
Q. You undertook an executive education program at IIM, Bangalore. What are the other ways for corporate lawyers to enhance their knowledge and skills as time progresses?
Learning and unlearning is a continuous process of life and profession. Things which seem relevant today may not be so relevant in future, and to remain relevant and viable it is of utmost importance that we continue to learn and keep pace with latest developments.
Executive education at IIMB was an enriching experience in learning and updating about latest developments in business practices, financing models and negotiations skills. Networking with like minded professionals and exchanging ideas with them was an icing on the cake, I made friends who are in touch and we bounce off ideas on various matters from time to time.
However, to regularly enhance knowledge and skills in recent times, I find digital platforms very useful as they are easily accessible with well-researched reading material.
Q. Do you think Artificial Intelligence and machine learning in legal technology can be helpful in assisting lawyers in the corporate industry? If so then in what ways?
Indeed! In today’s world, corporate industry is all about creating and implementing ever better innovative processes, and AI / digitalization of legal processes internally is also part of process. In the short term, it might appear to be an additional cost to various businesses depending upon their budgets, maturity levels and risk appetite, but in the long run, it is going to be the mantra for doing business in the right way. As the business expands and enters cross border territories, there will be more need for legal processes to keep the risk levels of the company low. I believe AI and digitalization in legal processes can bring far better efficiencies and transparency for businesses with legal and compliance counsels implementing it.
Q. You have also briefly practiced as an independent counsel. Could you talk about what were your practice areas then?
Commercial and corporate advisory with strategic litigation was my main focus area during my independent practice.
Q. Based on our telephonic conversation, you have a lot of interest in reading about what’s happening in the corporate and business world in general. What are some of your other areas of interest?
Being a general counsel/ in house counsel/ compliance counsel/ etc., one needs to be continuously updated with developments in all aspects of corporate world be it relevant markets, legal, economic, social, political, etc. To be a strategic and trusted advisor, one needs to strive for having the correct information at the right time and right place is the key.
I believe in the Latin phrase ‘Mens sana in corpore sano’ which is usually translated as ‘a healthy mind in a healthy body’. I try my best to do some kind of physical exercise every day be it walking, jogging, playing any sports.
Q. What advice would you like to give to young lawyers and law students who may want to get into your line of work?
I think today’s law students and young lawyers are very smart and bright. They have very good research skills as well. My advice would be to grasp the practicality and practice of law and compliance as much as possible.
Legal and compliance profession is a very dynamic and demanding profession, so have patience and learn to be a student for life. Maintain a diary and learn to organize yourself. There is no substitute to hard work, so be persistent and keep learning and improving yourself. Believe in the power of team work, learn to appreciate and respect others, and lead the way whenever opportunity is available. Enjoy the beautiful journey of this profession! My best wishes to them.