Mr Vibhore Chaturvedi

Vibhore Chaturvedi graduated in law from Government Law College, Mumbai, in 2009 and got enrolled with the Bar Council of Maharashtra and Goa. Before joining NIIF Infrastructure Finance Limited [an infrastructure debt fund (IDF)] as the Vice-President (Legal), he acted as the Group Head (Banking, Project Finance and Infrastructure) at Fox Mandal (Mumbai Office). He has more than 10 years of experience in advising financial institutions, developers, government bodies, and international banks throughout the Asian-Pacific region. Previously, he has also worked with IDBI Trusteeship Services Ltd. and IDFC Infrastructure Funds Ltd. as Senior Manager (Legal).

1. Could you please provide our readers with some insights into your professional journey and the formative years of your career?

Having started my career working with a law firm, I got to understand the nuances of legal research, drafting and negotiating documents. In the formative years of my career, I found myself having an inclination towards project financing and evolving regulatory issues in renewable energy and infrastructure sector, and consciously moved to an in-house role for an opportunity to learn and understand the business issues per se, as the financing documentation is also commercial in nature. The past decade has given me the opportunity to work on both sides of the spectrum, involving law firms and corporates. In my last role with a law firm, having represented both borrower companies and lenders, it gave me a detailed insight into practical issues which stakeholders face during construction and operation of a project. Contracts have to be drafted in such a way that potential and identified risks are duly mitigated.

2. What prompted you to do law and make a definitive choice of your career path?

Law as a career option was never the first choice for me. I was preparing to join the defence forces and during my preparations, I came to know about the role of lawyers in the army. Unfortunately, I could not pursue my career in that direction, however, I was intrigued by the developments happening in the area of corporate laws and the role of lawyers in strategising transactions.

3. How would you rate your corporate journey? How did the diversity of working in different firms shape you?

My corporate journey has been enriching, marked by diverse experiences in various firms and financial institutions. Working across different environments has immensely contributed to my professional and personal growth. It has helped me hone my legal skills and provided valuable perspectives on navigating complex deal structuring and documentation. With an exclusive focus on banking and the financial landscape, not only did I get an opportunity to work with banking stalwarts and learn to draft, research and hone my negotiation skills, but also understand the nuances of commercial aspects of banking and finance. Early on, I realised that contracts have to be drafted in a way that potential and identified risks are duly mitigated. Ever-evolving rules and regulations in connection with the renewable energy sector mandate that we cautiously incorporate the amendments and modify relevant clauses regularly.

4. At what juncture did you finalise banking, project finance and infrastructure practice to be your niche? Additionally, could you please highlight the key skills necessary to excel in these areas?

I always had an interest in the financial and economic landscape, and the developments taking place globally from a policy perspective. The Indian Government’s policy push and increasing interest from investors globally in renewable energy and infrastructure space pushed me to dwell deep in the area of project financing, banking and infrastructure laws. It led me to deeply understand the intersection of legal complexities and financial intricacies.

Key steps required to excel in an area of law involving banking or finance is understanding the key and basic concepts of finance. It is crucial for a young lawyer to understand business terminologies, since due diligence and transaction documentation is mostly commercial in nature. To advise one’s client not just legally but also strategically, one needs to understand the nuances of the financial world. Additionally, attending workshops to learn about drafting notices and agreements will help you understand the documentation part early on in your career. Most importantly, developing communication skills for a lawyer working on transactions that involve multi-jurisdictions is a no-brainer. Pushing oneself out of their comfort zone and participating in debates and moot courts in colleges will give confidence to engage with others on a large platform, hence developing skills to think on your feet, which is very well required when we engage in negotiations.

Having said that, the above steps will only yield results when we have a deep understanding of the law. Extensive reading and knowledge of law assist in navigating through the daily complexities that the legal profession throws at us. Interpretation of law is a skill that can only be acquired through extensive reading and understanding of how the law is enacted and policies are put into place. It is paramount to know about circulars and notifications issued by regulatory authorities and understanding the reasons behind it.

5. Can you please describe the differences you experienced when transitioning from being the Group Head (Banking, Project Finance and Infrastructure) at Fox Mandal (Mumbai Office) to join NIIF Infrastructure Finance Limited as the Vice- President (Legal)?

Transitioning from a law firm to an in-house lawyer at a financial institution involves a shift in focus and responsibilities. Not only work routine, but one also has to adapt to changes in team management and delegation. In a law firm, the work often spans various clients and transactions, requiring a broad skill set. As an in-house lawyer for a financial institution, your focus narrows to the specific legal and compliance needs and challenges of that organisation. You will likely deal extensively with regulatory compliance, contract negotiation, and internal legal matters. One has to primarily align with the vision of the General Counsel, CEO and institution’s objectives. Understanding the institution’s business operations becomes crucial, and collaboration with different departments is the key. Additionally, you may also find yourself involved in strategic decision-making, deal structuring and risk management, providing legal guidance within the context of the financial industry. It always helps to adopt a solution-oriented approach rather than only raising red flags and being a hurdle for prospective transactions.

One needs to be quick to understand the challenges faced by the in-house business teams and counterparties to come up with a practical solution. Overall, the transition involves adapting to a more specialised role, aligning legal strategies with the institution’s objectives, and playing a more integrated part in the overall functioning of the organisation.

6. How would you suggest a law student should decide on whether to join a law firm, work in-house or litigate?

Today’s abundance of options requires aspiring individuals to thoroughly explore and gain hands-on experience before choosing a specific area of law. To make well-informed career decisions, immerse yourself in internships, which expose you to diverse legal sectors and provide practical insights. Attend conferences to interact with industry leaders, gaining a comprehensive understanding of how to shape your legal career. Avoid hasty decisions between law firms and in-house roles; instead, focus on mastering your craft, dedicating time to your chosen area of interest, and witnessing growth over time.

It easily takes 3-4 years or more before one can actually decide on shaping their career with a law firm or working with an organisation or institution in an advisory role. Each has its own pros and cons attached to it. One may want to avoid any rigidity in perspectives early on in a career. Be flexible in what comes your way, and focus on adding value to your skills and learning on a daily basis.

7. If you were to make an alternate career choice as a young adult yourself, what would it be?

If I were to consider an alternate career choice as a young adult, it would have been joining the defence forces. The charm and commitment of the uniform has always fascinated me, and a sense of duty, discipline, and the opportunity to contribute to national security has always made a compelling case for me. The chance to serve a greater purpose and engage in meaningful challenges could have definitely been a fulfilling alternative career option for me.

8. In the midst of a busy schedule, how do you rejuvenate and find inspiration to continue your work with enthusiasm?

As they say, if we start taking interest in what we engage in, there will be fewer moments of exhaustion. However, everyone has their moments of burnout, and it is critical to find the balance between work and personal well-being. To be able to effectively deliver in the dynamic corporate world, we need to engage in activities that help us recharge physically, mentally and emotionally. For me, when I get some time off to unwind, I like to read books, explore new countries, and listen to podcasts on various topics.

9. Which books of your choice would you recommend for our readers?

Some of the books to mention that I really liked reading and could take away some learning are Breakout Nations by Ruchir Sharma, Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, 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 and India, Bharat and Pakistan: The Constitutional Journey of a Sandwiched Civilisation by J. Sai Deepak.

10. As a practitioner with significant experience in diverse practice areas, how do you view the role and significance of legal research engines such as SCC OnLine, in facilitating legal research and staying abreast of legal developments?

I perceive legal research engines like SCC OnLine as invaluable tools for staying abreast of legal developments and facilitating efficient legal research. These platforms streamline the retrieval of case laws, statutes, and legal commentary, enhancing the speed and accuracy of research. In addition to judicial precedents, legal research engines also assist us in finding information relating to legal developments in one place and also giving us a chance to read articles and publications by legal luminaries on diverse legal issues evolving in corporate laws, constitutional law and policymaking. The comprehensive databases and advanced search functionalities offered by SCC OnLine contribute to a more thorough analysis of legal issues, enabling practitioners to navigate through a vast array of legal resources. In a dynamic legal landscape, these tools play a pivotal role in maintaining a practitioner’s proficiency and ensuring a nuanced understanding of evolving legal precedents and statutes in different areas of law.

11. Is there any piece of advice that you would like to give to the readers who might want to follow your steps?

To succeed in the legal profession, cultivate strong communication skills, keep yourself updated by subscribing to various newsletters, and strive for a deep understanding of the law by listening to parliamentary debates, reading newspapers and keeping abreast of all the amendments to various laws and policy-level changes. With increased social media presence, especially in the post-COVID era, one can listen to many legal stalwarts speaking on legal concepts and various issues and breaking down complex topics in a simple manner. One can also read writings published on law firm’s websites and keep oneself updated with the latest developments in different sectors.

Build a strong network and seek mentorship, which will help you not only understand a specific subject of law but plan one’s career moves in a strategic manner.

12. What is one mantra you follow to be an effective leader?

Being easy to work with is a highly underrated skill.

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