Imran Kali, General Counsel at SmartFocus

Posted in Interviews on 28 Sep 2017

Tell us about SmartFocus?

SmartFocus are a multinational technology company providing a variety of products and services to businesses to generate revenue and growth. We provide cloud based software products, data analytics and bespoke professional services. Operating globally we have offices strategically located in order to provide clients with comprehensive coverage. We have offices in the UK, US, France, Spain, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, Netherlands as well as in Hong Kong and Shanghai.  We are owned and operated by the leading Technology Private Equity Group Francisco Partners.

Tell us about your role as General Counsel?

I am responsible for the management of all legal and compliance matters globally. I am supported by a team of 3 lawyers who report to me.

Daily I manage the corporate administration of the group companies as well as providing strategic advice to senior managers on risk, compliance and operational guidance on business matters and planning. On legal matters I advise on all areas of law from general contractual matters, intellectual property, data protection right through to litigation and employment law. In addition I advise on legislative and regulatory changes and implement policies and procedures to minimise exposure and meet compliance requirements.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I’ve worked in a variety of businesses from PLC status right through to private equity backed ventures of all different sizes. With SmartFocus they view the legal function as a reference point for not only legal matters but business matters too that makes my role as the GC a interesting one, often advising on corporate strategy at the same time as negotiating a contract.

What are the main challenges of your role?

Keeping up with legislative changes globally as we have multiple offices that require legal support. I rely to some degree on the support of external counsel and generally get to conferences and legal updates when possible.

Perhaps the second challenge is managing a team of lawyers who all have different degrees of experience and need support from their manager in different ways. As a manager you want your team to grow and develop in order to make them strong legal advisers but also business people that are commercially sensible too. Identifying the necessary experiences and opportunities needed to achieve good learning and development is always going to be challenging. 

Why the law and why In House?

It really depends on how you view a lawyer’s role in the work place. Some view lawyers as advisers who are called upon as and when needed, while others draw a different view. Lawyers’ in my view are facilitators helping businesses overcome obstacles which are not limited to providing legal advice only. I’m attracted to business matters and therefore as an in house lawyer I’m required to get involved in more commercial matters such as strategy, business development, streamlining processes etc. 

In private practice your role is limited to simply advising your client and that’s it. As an in house lawyer, you’re required to provide a more comprehensive approach where you are immersed into the business and that’s what I like to get involved in.

Have you always worked in House? Where did you train and work before you joined SmartFocus?

No, I trained in private practice at RJW, what is now Slater Gordon. After I qualified in 2006 I spent a short period of time in private practice but moved to an in house role with the charity Macmillan Cancer Support to work as there in house lawyer and a year later I joined William Hill Plc and spent three years with them. After that I had developed experience and a reputation in the technology sector and have since worked for various technology and software companies both in the UK and US.

What is the best piece of advice you can give to an ambitious Solicitor at the start of their legal career?

A career like anything else in life requires a plan or a strategy. You need to think ahead and foresee where you want to be in several years’ time. Once you have the strategy then implement it, don’t settle for less and you will hit some bumps in the road but don’t get disheartened, pick yourself up and carry on until you get to where you want to be in your career. 

Who has been the biggest influence on your career and why?

There’s a few. I had a very good teacher when I was in college, Mr Quinty Williams who instilled the ambition to be a lawyer in me and then really it’s my parents who supported me in my career choices and helped me achieve where I am today.

So far what has been your career highlight?

There’s been many. I think the best was when I flew to Monaco to visit the CEO of a client’s business to try and resolve a dispute. Got picked up in Maybach and then driven to his yacht, which was moored opposite Monte Carlo Casino. We had breakfast together, talked some business and then he took us for a cruise. For a few hours of my life, it all became a little James Bond! We got the resolution that we needed and I got back on my economy flight home ;-)

What has been your greatest achievement so far in life?

My family.  They make me smile every day.

Tell us a bit about yourself?

I’m born and raised in London. A lawyer with great concern for socio-political issues.

I’m active in the local community to try and help those from disadvantaged back grounds get on and into work. I have a real desire to see change to improve the lives of those I share this amazing city with. In addition to that I love playing, watching and talking about football, and especially my beloved Tottenham Hotspur! 

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