Careers Featured

3 times I embarrassed myself before my board while doing international expansion

I began my career with a small practice of my own. In my second year of practice, I had to deal with a client who had a wholly-owned subsidiary in Singapore. 

Point A: 

I was dead scared of ending up making a mistake with this client…..because how on earth was I going to be able to make sense of Singapore laws when I had barely begun to get a grip over the practical application of the Indian laws?

Point B: 

A few years later, while working as an Assistant Company Secretary, I incorporated an entity for my employer in New Zealand all by myself. In a day.

And it was no big deal.


In this role, I was handling compliance of 19 different countries. Yes, you read that right, 19.

I was not the same person anymore. 

Don’t ask me what I had to go through in order to go from Point A to Point B. But I had to change.

If you work in an MNC, and you do not want to be stuck at the bottom-most rung of the ladder, you are forced to handle legal and compliance affairs of many countries at once, that is the nature of the business.

There were no courses, no books, no resources. The only thing I could count on was few minutes from my extremely busy seniors.

I made lots of mistakes and paid the price in my career.

Once I took 6 months to incorporate a subsidiary in Argentina that led to wastage of probably over a million dollars.

In the midst of a takeover, I missed sending letters to holders of employee stock options that were being purchased by the acquirer. As a result, the entire transaction was held up. The delisting of the company was delayed by 15 days and management integration could not take place. Imagine the embarrassment I faced. 

How do you think such a gaffe made me look before my board? Imagine having to tell your directors – I didn’t know this so we have to wait for 15 more days to complete the transaction.

Another spectacular failure before my board at India Infoline happened in 2005, when we had to set up a subsidiary in Dubai for commodities trading. I was visiting the Dubai embassy every day trying to figure out how to incorporate in Dubai, and no research was helping. While I was running around, my company’s commodities head found out through his network how to get the incorporation done, and completed it without my involvement.

I felt like an idiot. I couldn’t tell people that nobody teaches this in law school or CS curriculum.

The board probably thought I was an idiot too. After this, I stopped getting invites to some of the most significant company outings and retreats reserved for the best and the brightest. That hurt a lot.

Anyway, eventually, I learned what I had to learn through lots of trial and error and eventually rose to Assistant Vice President Legal at the Northern Trust Bank in Ireland in 2015.

I was in the middle of an ocean, I even did not have a lifeboat, and I had to survive.

I did. 

Many others do it too, after some costly mistakes, burning their fingers, falling flat on their face a few times. 

But lots of others don’t make it.

I have seen so many fresh faces come into international lawyering, a very challenging but extremely rewarding area of practice, with lots of dreams in their eyes. Getting their foot in the door is a big deal itself, and only those with the best education and a lot of talent usually make it, so it is more heartbreaking to see them crash and burn and quit.

Whether you are working in senior roles with MNCs, helping ambitious and well-funded startups to go international, or working as an international business consultant, or even if you want to aspire to get there, you can immensely benefit from learning how to navigate legal systems of these following countries, because you will be dealing with them most frequently:

  1. China
  2. USA
  3. UK
  4. UAE
  5. Singapore
  6. Brazil
  7. Japan
  8. India

Would you like to learn about the most critical laws, rules, and unwritten rules about doing business with these countries that can help you to avoid the sort of embarrassment I faced in my career trying to deal with international business expansion?

Don’t miss this. We are organizing a free online bootcamp to train you about this. The 3-day free bootcamp starts on 17 March, 6-9 IST. 

Who will like to join? 

If you want to be notified about other workshops and webinars conducted by LawSikho on International Business, please join the WhatsApp group below: 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *