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In Conversation with Mr. Atul Juvle, General Counsel, Schindler India Pvt. Ltd

Mr. Atul Juvle is currently the General Counsel, Compliance Officer, and Co. Sec. India & South Asia at Schindler India Pvt. Ltd. Mr. Juvle started out at Bank of India while he stepped on the ladder of success to be a part of Forbes India-GC list. He discussed his journey with Apoorva Mehta, Executive Manager at Legal Desire. He also suggested his mantras for life and success.

Q: You finished your master’s degree in Commerce at the University of Mumbai before pursuing your LLB there. What inspired you to select law as a profession?
It was a result of Pull & Push. I completed post-graduation in commerce & banking qualification IIB simultaneously.   While doing C.A.I.I.B., interest in law arose, while studying the case laws affecting banking industry, which generated a pull effect. It was an era in 1980/90 when our economy was almost closed.  The banking sector was predominantly dominated by selective government banks. Internally, the major eligibility criteria for promotions opportunities was seniority in the Bank. These circumstances had a push effect on me entering governance and legal field. This also helped to focus seriously on education, and I simultaneously completed Legal & CS professional qualifications. 

Q: We would like to know about your interesting journey from Bank of India to Forbes India-GC list.  How did you manage studies while working with the Bank of India? What was the key to managing your studies and work? 
My proactive willingness to work beyond office timings and commitment in working, helped me to add many good friends and supporting bosses in Bank of India.  Good number of them guided and helped me from time to time, with concessions in morning hours for attending colleges and granting leaves for studies, whenever requested.   I am grateful to Bank of India and my all-close friends, for enabling me to lay a strong professional education foundation.

Q: As a divisional manager in their legal team, you begin working for one of the biggest conglomerates of India (TIL) international limited. How did your financial and legal training help you while you were working at the company?
Frankly, before joining TIL my legal practical exposure was as good as zero. But because of banking experience, I was good at agreements drafting and analysing financial reports, which helped me to connect with law very well. I got extensive pan-India courts-lawyers working exposure at TIL in legal and multiple overseas subsidiaries located in various countries, exposure on the secretarial side. My hunger for work and willingness for hard working, enabled me to excel my experiences and learnings under two tough but intelligent bosses. Last but the most important, was my maiden exposure to business ethics and code of conduct, at TIL.  

Q: What, in your opinion, has aided your rise to the position of leading general counsel?
I believe, more than achieving a leading GC position, is more challenging is to stay at the position successfully.   I feel, four basic habits kept me going, year on year with comfortably managing survival as well as simultaneously achieving growth– 
Health consciousness- to increase dependability and trust in others mind, the basic requirement is – we need to be naturally energetic throughout a day, even at the time of leaving the office.  On a day-to-day basis, attending office without long breaks, planned or surprising. My planned leave never exceeded a week, and I was strongly supported by my wife- Pratibha, to be happy and comfortable with the concept of maximum nine days leave at a time. (Considering the preceding and succeeding weekends with leave). I also do not want to state that I was never sick, but I ensured that the breaks were minimal, because of timely consultation of doctors and following their advice.  Grateful to my family doctor Rajkumar Kedia.  
Learning attitude- you will find at least one degree / certification, to my credit, every three / four year.  This is also recommended as – 7th Habit of highly successful people, by Stephen Covey and other management gurus. Though frankly,  I read the book when half of my career was already built. 
Setting Tough Targets- personally & professionally- This not only keeps you busy & going, but also keeps you fit to easily manage survival.  Setting tough Targets ensures that you don’t enjoy celebrating minor achievements.  One additional benefit is, even if you take longer than planned, people respect you.
Focused hard work- there is no substitute for hard work, irrespective of how intelligent or at whichever level or position you are.  This is also reiterated in the book by Mark Effron – 8-Steps to High Performance.
Q: You continued your career by shifting to a leading life insurance company as vice president of legal and compliance. Can you discuss the charter of legal duty associated with an insurance company for our readers?
Thank you for the question.  Insurance is a highly regulated sector, like banking.  Here Governance and Compliance is the primary, critical, and sensitive role.  It includes continuous monitoring, updating & implementing the regulatory changes, seamlessly implementing them with the business processes and effectively continuous monitoring and tracking compliance dashboard and relevant reporting to the Board.  IRDAI is the most active but helpful and supportive regulator.  Here I must mention the support and guidance of my bosses and TEAM members.

Q: Additionally, you also served as Agro-based company’s legal head. How has the choice to change from an insurance company to an agribusiness company been beneficial on a personal and professional front?
Yes, working with Godrej group was beneficial on a personal and professional front and it was a great learning experience in a new set of regulations. While working at Godrej Agrovet, I got an additional exposure of managing challenging food related laws compliance and achieving the next level of excellence.  The food related regulatory compliances, are complex in nature and have criminal implications, was a big challenge.  But I learned fast and fared well, so much that, at the end of first year, I was nominated in the Group for outstanding Manager’s award. It was the first time, legal nomination.  

Q: Legal-500 UK has selected your team as one of the top 100 performing teams. How do you support the concept of creating a powerful teamwork culture?
Every group is not a TEAM. In TEAM, together everyone achieves more by caring and supporting other members. In the words of Stephen Covey, the sum of all is more than the sum of whole. I always believe there are two ways of progressing – One is to do your best which will keep you growing.  Second way is helping/supporting/allowing your team members / colleagues to grow, which not only meets their career aspirations but smoothly supports your next level with sustainability.  Yes, this comes with the challenge of retaining talent, sometimes.  But we need to have highly energetic, competing, challenging team members with a growth mindset.  When a team grows, it helps and creates space for everyone to grow.

Q: What do you think of the legal industry’s opportunities for the upcoming decade? Will the legal sector’s appearance undergo a significant change?
Pandemic has forced digitization on every sector, and legal is not an exception.  The compliance system was already on-line and settled well before Pandemic, now it’s turn for Legal.  Importantly all the intermediaries have accepted and settled into a digitized way of legal working.  So, future legal departments – will see gradually 60 / 70 % activities will be done on systems through machine learning or artificial intelligence.  With the courts becoming comfortable working on digital platforms, the day is not far when the majority, (if not all) litigation activities, including all types of ADRs, will move to digital platforms. Eventually majority litigation is expected to move to objective arguments and resolution.  Efficiency of working will improve multifield.  The speed with accuracy of artificial intelligence is amazing. Depending on cost-benefit-analysis, I feel the industry will be divided into- big set-ups with their systems inhouse and small & medium set-ups may use external service providers and will support large set-ups.  No doubt, every legal professional will now have  to be tech-savvy. 

Q: What were the most important lessons you learned as the legal gatekeepers and what are your projections for the coming year?
Ensuring business continuity in compliance with the changes in the situations and regulations,  by remaining agile by adapting the changes of digitized professional working in all walks of life, were the key challenges over the last two years.  The professional challenges keep changing and changing challenges keep professional life and going.   I feel four important challenges in coming years would be – digitization with artificial intelligence, which will further change the way of working in all spears.  The Data privacy and other obligations with increased and ever-changings methods of cyber-attacks with disclosures/actions compliance has made security risk, as routine responsibility.
Last but relevant, though it’s at a nascent stage in India, is understanding the changing regulations and rising expectations of stakeholders on ESG would shift soon as the primary challenge.  

Q: According to you which key law or ruling by the highest court was well-timed or a welcome change?
Mediation is going to be the future.  Courts are recommending it as a first step is a welcome move.  Even Consumer protection regulation has made provision for Mediation.  Changing mindsets of businesses will prefer mediation because business must go on and not litigations.  The acceptance of haircuts in settlement is becoming a way to ensure sustainable business and growth.  

Q: Finally, what guidance would you give to young law students and attorneys?
Remain self-focused and keep improving, if not every day, at least quarter by quarter. Three personal attributes immediately come to my mind – Integrity, Confidentiality & Health– Integrity means following honesty, when nobody is watching you.   Confidentiality must be more than 100%. These two basics lead to foundation of trust, which paves way for sustainable growth.   One must note that each one is watched & observed formally/ informally. Hence one must guard his/her integrity & confidentiality qualities at all times.  Third one is being healthy. One is either healthy without medicine or with medicine. Everyone must decide his/her category and ensure to prove ability to work without any major surprise breaks and on a few days’ long hours under pressure.  All this gives you a different edge over others. 
Two additional professional attributes can make you a deserving candidate to be on top. Sharpening the saw- keeping competency evergreen needs continuous learning attitude. Every knowledge / degree has shelf-life, so one must ensure to replace / renew it well before its expiry date. Finally, hunger for more exposure.     All these five pointers can put oneself on growth mode. I strongly believe survival is a by-product of a growth mindset.  
Few of other qualities I have already mentioned, while answering other questions  

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