The scramble for the best and the brightest legal talent has been ignited by a constantly changing regulatory environment, rising focus on corporate governance and ethical standards, and regularly evolving GST structures. This is leading to a massive churn in CLOs, said HR consultants and company officials.
“The chief legal officers’ job has become very critical with regulations changing all the time, governance structures evolving, and changes in GST structures,” said Shailesh Haribhakti, chairman of audit and accounting firm Haribhakti & Co. Haribhakti is an independent director at several Indian companies.
The pursuit of robust compliance by boards and investors, and accelerated digitization of the legal system is also fuelling the demand.
“A whole lot of new software coming into the market digitizing things like litigation management, compliance and the various interaction interfaces is also leading to the need for chief legal officers who have a strong understanding of technology,” said Haribhakti. “I am looking for zero non-compliance as an audit committee chair,” he added.
In October, Rajesh K. Sehgal joined as chief legal officer-energy at Adani Power from Dentons Link Legal. Other recent moves include Anoop Khatry who joined Ultratech Cement from Suzlon Energy; Richa Mohanty Rao who joined Urban Company from Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas; Sujeet Jain who joined Nykaa from UltraTech Cement; Sameer Chugh, who joined Games 24 * 7 from CAM; Shelly Kohli who joined United Breweries from Unilever; Tejal Patil, GC at Wipro who joined from OYO.
Compensation too is soaring due to the talent shortage.
“The role of a chief legal officer (CLO) in India is much more complex and strategic than before,” said Jyoti Bowen Nath, managing partner, Claricent Partners.
“There is a constant need for organisations to attract top leadership talent, leading to pay surge,” she said.
A seasoned CLO could earn anywhere between ?3 crore and ?10 crore or even higher, said Nath. “CLOs are pivotal in steering a company’s legal strategy to support growth, manage risk and preserve the organisation’s reputation. They align legal initiatives with business goals, ensuring legal compliance while enhancing operational efficiency,” said Karl Fernandes, partner and head of the corporate practice group at specialist search firm Vahura. “They often oversee regulatory compliance, government interactions, ethical standards, risk manageme-nt, and corporate governance.”
Typically, CLOs are members of the board of directors or executive committee, signifying their higher-level strategic involvement, said Fernandes.
Industries experiencing high demand for CLOs include banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI); technology, media and telecom (TMT), manufacturing, infrastructure, large conglomerates, and new-age digital firms.