Mr. Abhijeet Tople started his career as a salesman, he then took engineering and today he is the Vice President, Legal at Unity Small Finance Bank. Mr. Tople shared his journey with Apoorva Mehta, Executive Director at Legal Desire. Read the conversation below:
Q: Please tell us what inspired you to pursue a law degree, Mr. Tople. How were the first years of your professional career?
A: I’ve always wanted to work with companies in a leadership role. It was necessary to acquire knowledge in business to enter the companies. This is how I started my career in marketing and sales. I had negotiated agreements and contracts with dealers and distributors to open a dealership/distribution etc. I have found that if the seller is to sell the product/service, the support of the legal department is very important to close the deals and business deals. I was sure that in order to become a successful lawyer/legal advisor, understanding the business is very important. I immediately decided to pursue law studies and pursue a career in the legal field. Later I completed LLB, practiced for a few years as a lawyer and joined the company as in-house legal counsel.
Q: From a marketing and sales foundation to an award-winning corporate lawyer with over 17 years of experience. What accomplishments from your legal career stand out?
A: While working with Jio Financial Services, I drafted, checked and negotiated all agreements internally and saved huge costs for the organization. Also, we might succeed in keeping disputes at NIL.
Q: Success is supposed to be easy to achieve but difficult to maintain. What allowed you to succeed for a long time and to continue?
A: Every legal professional should be a lifelong student. Continuous learning has helped me succeed so far and will continue to help me in the future. Never stop learning.
Always keep in mind that the company you work for will grow if you support the growth of said company. Therefore, think like a businessman and try to provide your legal services in a way that contributes to the overall growth of the organization. Always be a business facilitator while ensuring compliance with applicable laws.
Q: Can you tell us about yourself and your successful track record so far?
A: I come from a small town in Maharashtra. You are not exposed to businesses or large customers when you are in a small town. Opportunities for growth are rare. In such an environment, it is difficult to succeed. However, my father was a business professor. We were always talking about businesses in big cities, how those businesses work, what a balance sheet is, marketing, and so on. My first job was in the company that made a hammock and a mosquito net. I was in class 7 at the time. There was no financial need to join this position but I joined to gain marketing experience. I have always been fascinated by how these sellers come to your door, negotiate and sell even after receiving a lot of hate from buyers most of the time. I joined this company and used to go door to door selling said products. I have acquired a very good experience in door-to-door marking. After that, I never looked back. After my 10th class, I completed my 3 year government diploma in plastics and polymer engineering with good grades and immediately joined a multinational company in Gujarat in 1997 as a production engineer. While working, I got very good experience in manufacturing, how workers think, how management works, etc. At the same time, I passed the class 12 commerce exam as an external candidate. Due to my previous experience, I was convinced that there was no alternative to commerce and therefore, while working, I completed my degree in Commerce. Later, I joined a few companies as a regional sales manager, distribution manager, medical representative, etc. and I have gained very good experience in selling FMCG, medical, auto parts, plastic and polymer etc. I also took on the distribution of a few companies that were in plastics. manufacture of crates and pellets and has acquired a wealth of experience in distribution. My objective at the beginning was not to earn money but to acquire a very good experience and to make myself known. During all these years of work, I had the chance to work on numerous agreements with dealers and distributors of companies in coordination with the legal departments and also in the context of negotiations for the resolution of some disputes. I was fascinated by the kind of work that corporate advocates and lawyers did for corporations. So I decided to become a lawyer and I was admitted to LLB in my city of Akola. I have to say it doesn’t matter which university you go to, but your dedication, your hard work matters. However, with my LLB, I started to coach classes for business and law students from the second year of my LLB and I also taught Russian language which was my first language in my class 12. I was also delivering Hindi and Marathi news on a TV channel. as an anchor for 3 years for an hour every day. This experience helped build knowledge in public speaking, journalism, political issues, and other social and business issues.
I joined a part-time law firm in my first year of LLB proper. I used to go to the office every night. I used to study briefs and help lawyers prepare and draft briefs, complaints, complaints, agreements, etc. This experience was very unique since I was directly gaining experience in writing and also in dealing with different clients. My eldest advised me to practice in court for at least 3 years in the early days of my career to gain practical knowledge of law and then I should join the company. I started practicing as a lawyer in my city of Akola in the district and session court. My previous experience with various industries helped me a lot in getting clients in a very short time. In the first 3 months of my court appearance, I argued for early bail in which 7 dacoits were involved and also provided title search reports for the 3 largest banks in India. During the first 6 months, I was working for local dealers, distributors, etc. While practicing as a lawyer, I met in-house lawyers, legal teams, etc. and I had a good understanding of their requirements.
Later, I joined a company in the legal department of a well-known corporate house in Mumbai. Since then, I have worked for companies in various capacities within a legal department.
I have been honored with various awards including General Counsel of the Year Awards, In-house Counsel of the Year Awards, etc. I must say that every law student should not miss any opportunity to learn business while studying law. This will help them understand the business and apply the law to a particular business situation. I am of the opinion that one should practice in court for at least 2 years so that they can understand how the court system works, documentation etc. and that no one can deceive them in relation to legal proceedings.
Q: What would a typical day look like in the legal department of Unity Small Finance Bank Ltd? What are your current roles and responsibilities as Vice President of Legal at Unity Small Finance Bank Ltd?
A: The Legal Department is responsible for drafting, reviewing and negotiating agreements, legal advice and litigation management, product/process advice, policy, human resources advice/support , etc.
Q: What are some of the current operational challenges facing in-house legal departments?
A: We are not experiencing any operational issues as such. The legal team is always available to help and provide legal support with full motivation. During Covid we struggled to get stamp duty as did other businesses.
Q: What focus do you try to give readers of your books when writing the books?
A: I have written a few books, including How to Draft, Check, Negotiate Agreements in the Shortest Time, Importance of Law, Recovery, Risk and Compliance for Business Growth, Difference Between employment and business and How to recover amounts owed in seven steps. The books provide insight into what the business expects of in-house counsel and the steps we can take to deliver legal work as quickly as possible while ensuring compliance with applicable laws.
Q: Can you describe your background to the various summits in which you have participated, in particular those organized by Thomson Reuters, Inventicon, etc.? ? Any distinct memories you would like to share from these summits?
A: I regularly speak at various summits. The summits organized by ALB/Thomson Reuters, Inventicon, Legavent, BW Legalworld, Legal Era etc are really great. I have always enjoyed speaking at events organized by them. Topics in the summits are curated and current and always give you the required contemporary knowledge you are looking for. Always had the chance to meet the best talents in the industry at the summits and discuss with them the current problems and their solutions. These summits are necessary for the sharing of knowledge on various subjects of law. I had the chance to meet Senior Counsel Mr. Ram Jethmalani at the event organized by Legal Desire Media and I also met Mr. Suresh Prabhu Minster of Commerce and Industries and Civil Aviation at the summit organized by Legal era. I was facilitated with a prize by their hands.
Q: What do you think of the idea of work-life balance?
A: Work-life balance is very important. You have to give your all when you have to deliver and make the most of it when you have the time. I have enough time to spend with my family, I speak in various forums, I sing songs, I write poems and I take long car trips.
Q: What keeps you active besides work? Would you like to suggest movies or books that had a big influence on you?
A: I like to read, write poems and take long car trips. I loved the One Minute Manager book. Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, 3 Idiots are my favorite. I’m also an engineer and I’ve practically lived life as depicted in 3 Idiots.
Q: What advice do you offer to those wishing to succeed in the legal field?
A: Be consistent in your efforts, learn new things and gain new knowledge, stay positive and motivated, and maintain your health.
Q: What is the most rewarding aspect of being a lawyer?
A: You can help everyone on this earth to obtain justice.