Mr. Atul Juvle is currently the General Counsel, Compliance Officer & Company Secretary of India & South Asia at Schindler India Pvt. Ltd. Mr. Juvle, a Mumbai University Graduate, started off his career as an Executive at Bank of India in November 1983. He then pursued Company Secretary and joined Shriyam Securities & Finance Ltd as a Company Secretary. He then went on to serve as a Divisional Manager – Legal & Secretarial at Tata International Limited and subsequently worked with Otis Elevator Company India Ltd., HDFC Standard Life Limited and Godrej Agrovet Limited before joining Schindler India Pvt. Ltd.
Through all these years he has worked with a lot of people and has enormous experiences to share. In this interview, we will try to take a close look from the very beginning of his career and we wish the young lawyers can get some inspiration from Mr. Atul Juvle’s journey.
Trishala Sailish: Can you share your experience from your formative years? What inspired you to pursue law?
Atul Juvle: In my formative years, after graduating college I started working at a bank. My focus was to receive a qualification in the field of banking and alongside I was pursuing my post-graduation. One of the subjects that I was studying in my post-graduation was laws relating to banks. I found this subject quite fascinating as I was always curious to know why a certain bank was sued, why the judgment was given in their favour or against them. After a few years, I started feeling stagnated because during the 1980s the sector was not as dynamic as it is today. So, I thought of pursuing LLB and applying for the position of Company Secretary as it was in demand. Within a couple of years, I found myself completely immersed in the field of law and soon reached the position of General Counsel. I have completed two decades now as the legal head.
Trishala Sailish: How was your experience at law school? Did you actively engage in internships and if yes, how was your experience interning?
Atul Juvle: I studied at Siddharth College of Arts, Science and Commerce, Mumbai and my experience there was great. While I was pursuing my degree, I was also working at a bank. I would attend my classes from 7:00 AM to 10.30 AM and attend the office at 11 AM. I completed my real-time assignments- court visits/moot court by taking leave from the office. So overall, my experience at law school was great. I started interning once I quit my job at the bank. My very first experience as a legal intern still remains fresh in my memory where the man interviewing me told me that if my response to any assignment is Negative, then its better I can go home and the paycheque will be sent. It sounds extremely harsh, but this one conversation has continued to find solutions for problems. I realised that no problem comes without a solution. I can either find a solution quickly or can wait patiently for it. My second experience was quite touching but a perspective opening. While working as a company secretary, the MD of the company told me that treat your work as an extension of the home. At home, one doesn’t pretend and is genuine. That realness must be brought at work and facilitating to make your work-life balance, easier.
Trishala Sailish: Can you tell us about your role and the functions you perform as the General Counsel, Compliance Officer and Company Secretary- India and South Asia at Schindler India Pvt. Ltd.?
Atul Juvle: As a General Counsel, the main responsibility is to ensure compliances, safeguarding the company’s assets and business by proactive or reactive actions. It generally includes overall compliance of law, dealing with overseas distributors, corporate R&D, code of conduct, filing and defending, training, advisory, investigations, Audits and the list goes on.
Trishala Sailish: Can you share your experience while you were working in Tata International? How has that experience benefitted you?
Atul Juvle: One of the milestones, in my career, was working in Tata International and my experience there, has undoubtedly taught me a lot. In the legal sphere, I specifically learned corporate governance and PAN India legal matters handling. One of the main reasons why I enjoyed working there was the freedom that my supervisors gave me. In Corporate Governance, there was transparency, all the decisions taken were on record and non-daily decisions were passed by resolutions. It allowed me to understand in-depth & strengthen ethics, honesty, integrity and transparency.
Trishala Sailish: Law is an ever-growing field with new specializations cropping up with the change in times and trends. What specialization in law do you think will be at its zenith in the coming time?
Atul Juvle: Digitalization has been brought to our doorstep especially during this time of pandemic where we have observed a rapid change within the working of every sphere. With that being said, one cannot deny that artificial intelligence is a threat and the jobs will undergo a transformation. Cyberlaw will take the centre stage.
Frauds and Forensic investigation which include audit and training will also experience their peak based on rising numbers all GDPR / Data privacy laws are already in news, due to huge financial penalties prescribed for violations. Arbitration and mediation are some other practices that I think more and more businesses will prefer to the court option. It does not mean that litigation will vanish, it will continue. However, it looks like the number of court litigations will be less. Friendly litigation will take the driver seat as its quick and economical.
Trishala Sailish: An illustrious career as yours does not come without setbacks. Can you share your experience in this regard and how do you think law students should effectively handle such setbacks and crisis?
Atul Juvle: Life has its own ups and downs, that is what we call life. One of the major setbacks I received was in 2005. I was managing insurances and claims satisfactorily well at the company, I was working in. Every year I was setting new benchmarks and undoubtedly, I was being appreciated and looked up to for the same. But in 2005 when Mumbai experienced the flood, a claim of Rs. 1.6 crore was filed by our company. To my utter surprise, the Insurance company asked a long list of questions on the claim about the procedures that we followed at the company. The claim became doubtful. It was a shock for me; however, I continued my efforts and took 16-18 months to realise the claim successfully. I was literally on the verge of losing my job. I learnt one thing; everything is formal in business.
Trishala Sailish: How does one handle setback / failure? Nowadays we find good number of cases of depressions.
Atul Juvle: Dealing with setbacks, I feel that the first step is, to accept that there is a crisis. When there is any problem that we can’t resolve for 10/12 days, the first step is to accept that it is a difficult problem. Depression is very common now because the younger generation does not know how to take or deal with the answer NO. One of the reasons, they are born in the era of abundance and a good number of them get many things on a platter. This is not their fault but the fault of our social system. I will suggest two or three actions. First of all, have a good senior/friend, with whom, one can narrate all the frustration/ failure without any filters. Secondly, work on finding solutions. Never take rest till you succeed. Do not hesitate to take advice from seniors. Your seniors will have more experience and will give you advice, at some time it may be harsh but right. Refrain from taking advice from your friends because they are your age and will tell you what pleases you in order to comfort you rather than what is right. Remember that crisis does not last, but tough people, do
Trishala Sailish: The pandemic has changed the way people work and has definitely posed huge challenge in front of everyone. How do you manage to do your work despite the difficulties?
Atul Juvle: People seem to look at the negative side of the situation but according to me, COVID has helped the legal field. Digitalization would have not seen the light of the day for the next 5-10 years if this pandemic never occurred. The courts have understood this and taken advantage by organizing online hearings of the cases. Not to mention that work from home saved a lot of travel time. In my case, almost 12 additional hours are added to my week. It has helped us understand our priorities and differentiate between important and not so important. One of the biggest advantages is that we can do our work/learning at our own pace which allows us to be creative. As far as I am concerned, it has not been a problem for us since my team is young. Of course, in the beginning, we were doubtful of the achievement of our objectives but we took speed after August and crossed our objectives in December first week.
Trishala Sailish: Can you share the achievements that you are very proud of and consider them to be a milestone in your career?
Atul Juvle: In 2019, I completed a hattrick of receiving recognition and rewards and was recognised as General Counsel International Law, Chief Compliance Officer of the year. However, the biggest milestones for me was to resolve the complex cases that I handled without the availability of paperwork. One of them happened in Chennai and another one in Mumbai. In Mumbai, after joining one company, I was attending the hearing of a case involving Rs. 2 crores of recovery. I requested for extension of the time period and the judge was quite understanding of the fact that I had just started working at that place and accordingly I was given 8 weeks to prepare for the next hearing. While working on the case, I discovered that there were only copies of the plaint and not a single copy of the evidence documents supporting the plaint. I checked with the other lawyers and they also did not have either. The case filed was genuine but there was no evidence to work with. But we found a silver lining and that was the countersuit that was filed by the other party against us for consequential damages of Rs. 20 crores. I strategized to take their case first for hearing and in cross-examination, we could bring on to recover the evidence which we required. Their case was heard first and during cross-examination, the lawyer representing us did a fantastic job. Approximately for 2 months cross-examination continued on various dates and consequently, the other party approached us for a compromise. I believe this was one of my biggest achievements.
Trishala Sailish: Lastly, can you give a piece of advice to the readers on how to be a successful general counsel like you?
Atul Juvle: Usually, people give a lot of advices but according to me there are only four points one must remember to be successful. Firstly, follow integrity. Many people confuse integrity and honesty. Honesty is when you work properly under supervision, but integrity is when even without any supervision you follow the rules and do the work in the manner it is supposed to be done. Secondly, maintaining confidentiality. The profession you have opted for requires you to maintain confidentiality and that is the only way one can help people in building trust in them. Thirdly, have a learning attitude. No matter how old you get, never stop learning. Keep yourself updated. Lastly, nothing can replace hard work. Put heart, time and efforts into everything and success will be at your feet.
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What a wonderful journey, Atul Ji and great piece of advice.