'Every problem has a solution! You just need to be patient and focus!'
Mr. Pramendra Tomar, Group General Counsel at Ampers and Group which is a company that bridges the gap between students and quality education by facilitating the educational institutions in their holistic and technology-based development.
Mr. Pramendra has over 18 years of multi-jurisdictional experience in the corporate law sector and has also lead the legal at Apollo for almost 17 long years.
In this E-interview, Mr. Pramendra is in a dialogue with the Assistant Editor for LAWyersClubIndia - Mr. Raghav Arora and has dispelled a lot about the corporate world, especially in the education sector.
We hope this piece on #LCI_Talk helps you and adds to your assets.
1. How/why did you decide to pursue Law? How do you define yourself as a student?
Ans - As early as college, I was identified as a kind of person who knew how to handle things, possessing a natural ability to approach difficult situation with a problem-solving attitude. That is why I thought I should consider becoming a lawyer to help others work through difficult challenges. Moreover, while pursuing CS, my interest further intrigued in law. It was an idea that stuck.I was always a sincere student and never lost focus on studies.
2. You have been a part of the GC for Apollo for a long time and then you switched to Ampersand. Why did you make a jump to such a different industry and how has the experience been?
Ans - I started with Apollo Group in 2001 and assumed responsibilities at the bottom of the hierarchy and built a legal function from a solo general counsel position to a large team for the rapidly growing organization. By the time I stepped into the senior management role in 2011, I was primed to lead legal from a strategic and cultural standpoint and developed various processes etc. to achieve a faster, more responsive legal and compliance function.
After such a long association, it was not easy to part ways but craving for more and different challenges was getting amplified with time. And then I took a leap to change industry and join Ampersand Group.To be a part of something that has not got much attention but is definitely bigger than anything else. Education was a new sector for me and posing challenges that could satisfy my yearning to do something new. The experience to work with Ampersand Group has been outstanding. It offers a vibrant workplace and provides ample opportunities where you can exhibit yourself. The Group is more unconventional and tech-savvy. Young workforce. We work on something new and unknown every day. Something creative and something that needs an unconventional approach to be applied.
3. What are the technical laws involved in your work at Ampersand? What kind of disputes does a company in Education find itself?
Ans - Education being a subject in the concurrent list of the Constitution of India, empowers the Central Legislature as well as the respective State Legislatures to enact legislations pertaining to the subject. There are State-wise as well as certain central legislations pertaining to establishment of schools, collection of fees, regulation of admission process, monitoring of teaching standards etc., which taking into account the respective State-wise legislations are unique in every State. Moreover, there are separate rules and/or bye-laws governing the affiliation to the respective State Boards as well other Central Boards (e.g., CBSE, CISCE) and International Boards (e.g., CAIE). The insertion of Article 21 A in the Constitution of India has also led to considerable changes in the aforesaid legislations in the recent past as well as led to fresh legislations to enforce the Constitutional mandate, some of which are even undergoing judicial scrutiny. Overall this makes the subject being one of the most dynamic, exiting and ever changing branch of law.
4. How do you see the legal tech Industry shaping up to make in-house legal work easy? What are the biggest benefits for In-House legal teams you see by adopting AI tools or DMS (Document Management Services)? Cost-saving or uniformity in pleadings and discovery? How companies should invest in legal tech?
Ans - We know that legal costs for any Corporate are quite high because it involves a lot of administrative and operational work and most importantly the mundane tasks which make it quite complicated to prioritise. Legal Tech startups can help you connect with the best legal experts to make things smooth. It is just facilitating a network that is a call away. And the most interesting thing is you have a wide range of experienced group of legal professionals you can work with in all capacities.
Legal Tech startup who work on the ZERO SERVICE FEE and ZERO COMMISSION Charges saves upto 70% legal cost for in-house legal teams.
Similarly, the AI technology which is utilised by these startups helps in-house counsels in increasing our productivity and saving time by getting our team equipped with Litigation Management and Compliance Management Tools. Hence, it's more than a random group of legal professionals, AI is what stream-lines the whole concept. Also, the CRM tools and technology factor adds value to the concept.
5. What are the different sets of institutions and individuals that you as the GC of Ampersand deal with and how are the experiences like? (Other companies, governments, individuals, salesforce, students, teachers, payment gateway providers, etc)
Ans - This sector requires day to day interactions with the respective State and Central Authorities regulating the sector. The scope of content development and online platforms for education make it imperative to deal with respective public and private players in the sector. Moreover, the sector experiencing enhanced demand in ‘Public-Private Partnership Model’ which is opening more avenues. Payment Gateways have become the order of the day in any sector and therefore there are considerable inaction with the related stakeholders. Above all education plays a central role in reshaping the next generation and therefore the parents are conscious they closely monitor the education of their children leading to frequent interaction with the schools.
6. Does the ‘morality and ethics' factor affect legal practice in the Education sector more than others?
Ans - Morality and Ethics are the factors that are the most important for legal profession in order to keep the spirit alive. It goes without saying that no lawyer can overlook these factors. Yes, the standards of morals and ethics are very high in education sector and there is more responsibility on your shoulders. To set an example. One bad example can have a ripple effect on the whole industry or the office. You have to strike a balance between heart and mind.
7. In what way does a good legal department give an edge to a company over its competitors?
Ans - Minimization or mitigation of risks, Profit maximization, cut on cost maybe.
8. There are notions like - Corporate is for women and litigation for men. What are your views on it?
Ans - None of them is reserved for any specific zander. In both areas, corporate and litigation, there are some very successful professionals of both zanders.
9. Law students are pretty excited to work in the corporate field and especially for start-ups. How important are internships? What do you think?
Ans - Internship is the time, when one has to roll up sleeves and do a lot oneself. And this hard work will surely reap countless benefits in future. As an intern, one gets a chance to grasp the understanding of how things actually work. Learn to make sure that the Company’s legal and commercial interests are protected and risks are mitigated. I believe in nurturing and mentoring talent, building strong teams and equipping them with tools and processes to augment efficiency and effectiveness.
10. Knowing what is legal and illegal and to some extent how are laws interpreted is what we learn in law schools. However, that might be useful in courts but in companies, one needs to know more about profit maximization. So how important do you think is making students learn the business in law schools? Should they be given an option to choose a stream? (Litigation and corporate)?
Ans - Commercial acumen and a thorough knowledge of proposed transaction is very important for a complete legal advice. It is very important to have at least basic understanding of the business/commercial world. It is a welcoming idea to teach business in law schools but at the same time the focus on law must not be diluted as the primary job of the lawyers to advise the company/client on legal issues and risk mitigation. They are not responsible to run the business but protect it. However, an added knowledge of commercial will surely help.
11. What is your message to the legal fraternity on LCI’s platform?
Ans- As I always say. Every problem has a solution. We only need to be patient and focused.