Law school requires dedication. Working in a law firm can be chaotic. Working in-house at a startup keeps you super busy. Doing all three at once… wow.
This is exactly what legal tech and legal ops enthusiast Madhuli Kango is currently doing.
Super ambitious and switched-on, Madhuli is in the earlier stages of her legal career and has already gained significant experience across the world of legal. Not only has she had roles both in-house and in private practice, but she has also gained legal experience in three different countries across two continents.
So what does the future of legal look like for those early in their career?
Let’s hear from law student and Paralegal at Datahash, Madhuli Kango.
Hi Madhuli! It’s great to speak with you! Please could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Sure. I studied in both India and Dubai for a few years but in 2020 I decided to transfer my law degree to the University of Canberra in Australia. I’ve gained experience in the legal sector in India, UAE, and now also in Australia. My perspective is that interconnectivity is the way forward so that’s why each of these has been a brilliant experience for me.
I’ve worked with law firms and lawyers here and there on various legal and non-legal projects but I’m currently working as a Paralegal for a small tech startup. I help them out with contracts and day-to-day research, policies, and such.
I’m also assisting a lawyer with different legal aspects of private client work too so I’m really getting the hang of the world of legal. It’s all pretty fun!
I think contract management and legal tech in the in-house environment is where I’d like to see myself after my studies.
Wow - you must be busy! And you’re still in law school at the moment. How’re you enjoying it?
I’m actually thoroughly enjoying working more than law school. I think I'm learning more from my practical experience than studies at the moment. Law school is extremely important to teach you about the theory of the matter and the theoretical aspects, but hands-on work is what gives you the practical experience that really teaches you.
You can learn endlessly about indemnification or limitation of liability but when you're actually drafting those contracts, when you're talking to companies, when you're negotiating, that's when you realize their implications. This is why I think it’s extremely important to gain work experience right from the beginning when studying for a degree such as law.
That makes sense. To what extent do your legal studies touch on business aspects?
Law degrees are either done as part of a Bachelor of Law or as an integrated degree. For instance, you can do it with a Bachelor of Business or Bachelor of Economics. You’ll likely gain wider perspectives on an integrated degree. Strictly law degrees will touch on business, corporate and commercial law, but it wouldn’t go into it as much detail as a business integrated degree.
And you’re currently working as a Paralegal with tech startup Datahash. Could you tell us about Datahash and your role here?
Datahash is a data analytics company focussing on web and mobile analytics as well as marketing technology and cloud data setup. I joined in July 2021 to assist them with general legal matters. For example, I’ll review NDAs, check if there are any agreements that have to be amended, etc. My work involves ensuring that all our activities adhere to the law and privacy policies. My role is centered around contract management and regulatory matters such as data privacy compliance.
What a great experience to have alongside your studies!
Absolutely. It's just brilliant. In the last few months, thanks to this experience, I’ve realized that I have an interest in in-house law, data privacy, obligations, and legal tech specifically. This is something I want to look into for my future.
And how are you finding working at a startup?
It's great! In startups, you have so much autonomy and independence as well as an ample amount of responsibility. When you're working in a law firm, firstly, you're never doing actual legal work as you're just assisting the lawyer. You'll likely do some research for them and every piece of work that you do is scrutinized by ten people afterward. At a startup, everything depends upon you so there’s a lot of accountability.
It’s not currently super common for companies to invest in legal at such an early stage. Why do you think Datahash has?
If you’re establishing a business, legal is the posting that should come forward. If you’re thinking about even setting up a simple grocery shop, you have to think about the permits, you have to think about the vendors, you have to think about the land and lease etc. Legal matters are essentially the first thing that comes up.
In the initial years of the startup, they did it on their own, but once the scale increases, once the amount of work increases, you reach a certain point when you need external help.
Also, when new regulations come in, like GDPR, legal is the one who will keep updated and ensure compliance. If you don’t have legal then it’s just way too much work for the CEO to look into.
In your opinion, what’s the role of legal at an early-stage startup?
It’s now widely acknowledged in the in-house world that legal is the business partner. In this role, you’re doing something very different than you would in private practice and you need to approach it from a different perspective. Your task is to assist the company to build in the correct direction.
So, when you’re setting up a startup, you have to keep in mind the various intricacies of the law. For example, if you have created a product that is very new, you have to ensure that it is properly protected with the relevant trademarks and copyrights.
It’s all about building up the foundations of being a business partner, guiding them on the things they need to do and things that they shouldn’t do.
Yes. It feels like more and more companies are embracing legal as a business partner (vs. someone you simply need to get sign-off from).
That’s the thing. If the perspective doesn’t change, it’s not really going to help either party. Legal is not there to obstruct you and just sign the documents as a formality. We have to work together with other teams. That’s the only way forward.
So why do you think you’d like an in-house career after your studies?
I think the beauty of in-house is the idea that you are a business partner. This is a company that is essentially your own and you’re the one who is looking at every aspect of it. When you work at a law firm, it’s one client after the next and you just move one. In-house you’re doing the groundwork and you see the company being built.
Also, at a law firm, you’re really restricted to a certain practice area. For example, if you find yourself doing more and more acquisitions, then those are likely the only kinds of cases that you’re going to get. Whereas in-house, every day is a new situation. Especially if you’re working at a smaller company where the legal department isn’t yet well-devised, you’ll be looking into everything from employment to labor, to privacy policies, mergers, deals, and everything in between. This is the beauty of it.
Definitely. And you’re passionate about legal tech and contract management. Can you tell us about this?
Sure. Recently I’ve been lucky enough to spend some time (virtually) with Marie Widner, whom you’ve had an interview with as well. Marie has been guiding me on all things legal operations and legal tech. This is where I started to learn more about contract management and legal ops - Marie is absolutely insightful.
I’m fascinated by the amount of technology that is already developed in this field - the things that CLMs can do are absolutely brilliant! It’s just amazing. They can help you save costs, the documents are error-free, you can save resources, time, you can collaborate! They’re sophisticated tools that I’m a big fan of.
That’s great to hear! I came into the legal world through legal tech so I struggle to picture how people did all of this manually before!
So, what’s your view on the future of legal tech?
Honestly, I think legal tech is the future. The sooner we apply it, get accustomed to it, and work together with it, the better it will be.
It’s extremely important to learn about evolving technologies and integrate this into legal tech in legal education. I had a unit at university which covered everything from space law to biomedicine to blockchain to smart contracts and legal tech. It was just brilliant.
Sounds energizing! What do you think is the role of contract management within business?
In business, contract management is about getting everything in order. It’s about organizing and systemizing your documents while ensuring the due process is followed. It’s keeping track of any updates and having clarity over what’s been agreed upon to ensure compliance.
As the world becomes more and more globalized, the greater the need for stronger contracts and stronger contract management systems. If you look at it from the perspective of multi-million deals, missing one seemingly small point could mess up the whole thing. Having it down in writing and in a clear and accessible manner is very important.
This is where contract management systems come into play. For instance, there’s a contract that is supposed to be terminated on X date. Yet, if you’re someone who’s dealing with many contracts, it’s impossible to remember what obligation and for which contract is due when.
CLM tools help you keep track by alerting you when certain dates are coming up. They also reduce the possibility of any miscommunication or misunderstanding because they’re ’on paper’ between the two parties. Contract management puts everything down on paper and makes it a whole lot easier for everyone to understand.