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LexTalk World Talk Show with Suman Mishra, Vice President Legal at Kotak Mahindra Investments.......

Suman holds over a decade of experience as an in-house legal counsel in the BFSI sector. She holds an LLB and LLM from India and received the Nani A. Palkivala Memorial Trust Gold medal in 2009. Currently, she is an LLM candidate(Class of 2023) from the UC Berkeley School of Law.

Her last assignment was as Vice President-Legal with Kotak Mahindra Investments Limited, where she led the legal desk for real estate investment and capital market transactions. She specialises in banking & corporate laws and regulatory compliances, RE project finance, internet payments & settlement laws, and data privacy laws.


Host: Taking relevance to the present range of developments, what do you think are the most important innovations that the legal industry requires to be done?

Suman: The modern world is becoming a digital economy. AI and machine learning are redefining customer insights, targeted marketing efforts, and institutional budgeting processes. Technology is changing sales and marketing strategies, data research, and information storage. Similar to this, technology and AI will contribute to revolutionary developments in the legal sector. Some of the essential innovative developments that the legal industry can benefit from can be:

1. Document Automation: The transition from traditional physical execution-based legal paperwork to online and digital execution-based documentation is imminent. Document automation can be a big step since it will make it unnecessary for executing parties to be present in person and will make it simple for parties and attorneys to negotiate and collaborate on the same draft documents over secure networks. In order to adapt and acknowledge such practices in the future, it is also necessary to modify the current legal rules. Moreover, comprehensive legal measures will be required to address issues relating to digital automation.

2. Reinventing legal research with AI: Research and information analysis have long taken a lot of time and effort from lawyers, but they are an essential part of any lawyer's work. Legal research and analysis will become incredibly efficient, time-saving, and highly accurate with the aid of artificial intelligence, such as Open AI's ChatGPT and other legal analytics tools. While the first major transformation involved switching from printed books to online information, the next major change will involve AI, which will not only search and guide information that is available everywhere but also assist with sharp analysis and efficient application of that research and insights.

3. Smart contracts and blockchain: Smart contracts may soon make it possible for lawyers to use them as a legal and compliance tool. Blockchain-based smart contracts enable automated contracts that take effect under specific predetermined conditions and do not need to be monitored. Contracts are converted into code for the purpose of smart contracts, which are then duplicated and saved. Through the incorporation of rules and control mechanisms into smart contracts, processes can be automated with the use of so-called legal technology. By reducing the time needed for processing and filling out paperwork, smart contracts could speed up Know Your Customer and legal due diligence procedures for banks and financial institutions.

4. Data storage in the cloud: Although this service has become commonplace in many industries, particularly with the widespread use of IOS and Android platforms, it has not yet been fully employed in the legal services sector. “Cloud Storage” often refers to a digital document and information repository that is more convenient to access, manage and store than traditional document storage. But, employing the suitable security mechanisms, lawyers can use the cloud in a considerably more advanced way to monitor, access, and make references to legal proceedings and give intended recipients secured access to legal material.

Host: The pandemic saw some courts begin moving towards more remote proceedings and availability. Is this sustainable, and a possible way to increase access to justice, in your opinion?

Suman: The pandemic forced the Indian judicial system to shift to remote proceedings. While there have been positive and negative views around courts resorting to remote proceedings, I believe that giving people virtual access to the courts improves access to justice and is sustainable.

To begin with, migrating to remote proceedings takes care of the biggest challenge of travel and logistics in court proceedings. Delays in court hearings and resolution on account of the inability of parties to travel and appear in court (voluntarily or involuntarily) are reduced significantly, and the continuity in case hearings becomes far more effective. Thanks to technology and courtroom digitization, a number of activities in the courtrooms could be completed swiftly such as serving papers to the disputing parties, getting access to court records, referring to case information, and scheduling parties' appearances, among others. Remote hearings can make court proceedings appear transparent by being accessible in real time to the public and media. Nevertheless, in-person court proceedings are indispensable; however, migrating to online proceedings will significantly lessen and streamline the court system's burden.

The pandemic did not bring the disruption that the courts desired, but it brought the disruption that the courts required to rethink and accept new ways of doing things and to change into a more approachable, open, transparent, effective, and user-friendly arm of government with the use of technology.

Host: Key lessons or experiences that have enriched you and are currently aiding you in your work profile.

Suman: I have experience working with various enterprises (domestic and foreign banks & financial institutions) with varied profiles. Each role increased my ability to learn new facets of the legal and business environment. In previous years of my career, I managed legal operations for retail and commercial banking business. I participated in the first phase of banks’ digital transformation when they introduced payment gateways and internet banking, which required adopting a thorough legal and regulatory structure. I have been entrusted with a range of responsibilities, such as tying up legal loose ends in microlending transactions, building intricate frameworks for wholesale banking, covering significant real estate and capital market transactions. This has taught me working on assembly line legal structure and executing focused transaction structures and the complexities involved with both. In the dawn of the pandemic and post-pandemic era, I led the transformation of the execution of legal documents from physical to digital platform. In my professional journey, I have been part of teams managing activities beyond transactional legal services, such as the merger of financial institutions and winding-up operations of banks. My knowledge and comprehension of the rules and legal complexity affecting the financial services business have improved as a result of this variety of jobs. In my last role as lead legal counsel at Kotak Mahindra Investments Limited, I oversaw complicated documentation and real estate transaction structure after RERA (Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016) and IBC (Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016) came into force. This has helped me comprehend the subtleties and nuances of statutory authorities and regulatory bodies and the difficulties associated with maintaining different compliances and rules in the real estate sector. In terms of organizational cultures, I have worked in various work settings with people from different cultures. My willingness to work hard and fulfill my obligations has polished my capacity to adapt to different work environments and grow professionally.




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