6 ASIAN BRIEFINGS MARCH 2017 © Association of Corporate Counsel
Fostering the In-house Community in India:
A Conversation With Pramod Rao of Citibank
By Matthew Sullivan, ACC
was accepted during the fourth year of the
Although small, the network of lawyers
that he met at university provided Rao with
essential connections that would support him
throughout his professional life. Alongside
his peers, he witnessed the growth of one of
the first generations of homegrown lawyers in
India, and realized the potential that they could
provide to the global legal landscape.
After Rao graduated, he joined the law firm
of Mulla & Mulla, Craige, Blunt & Caroe as an
advocate associate. While he enjoyed the detail-oriented nature of the position, he found that
life at a law firm left something to be desired.
“I spent a month with a firm after law school,
but quickly understood that it wasn’t my cup of
tea,” he explains. “Being in a law firm makes you
very focused on the corporate sector. The miss-
ing link, in my opinion, was the consumer end.”
In search of the duality between corporate
and consumer law, Rao accepted an in-house
position at a financial institution, ICICI, which
later transformed into a bank and a diversified
financial services conglomerate in Mumbai. He
worked there for nearly 16 years as both an in-
house lawyer and later as general counsel. The
bank satisfied his desire to work across borders,
and furthered his interest in the expanding the
legal foundation of India.
“This part of my career journey was quite
eventful. ICICI spanned both the corporate,
consumer, and international banking systems.
It gave me a good flavor for the world around
me. As a bank, we tended to affect the lives of
onsumers quite a lot. It gave me the privilege of
making a difference through a practice that was
still new to many in India,” he says.
An enticing offer to serve as partner of the
Indian law firm IndusLaw, however, compelled
him to once again leave the in-house profession.
Rapid technological advancements, an increasing focus on multinationals, and substantial
financial development have turned India into
a premier destination for legal services in the
Asia Pacific region. Throughout this expansion, Pramod Rao, general counsel for Citi
South Asia, has worked tirelessly to foster one
phenomenon that the international legal community has paid special attention to in recent
years: the rise of in-house counsel in India.
Rao has spent his life promoting and fostering this growth. Over a 20-year career, he has
remained unyielding in his attempt to encourage multinational organizations to tap into
the high quality pool of in-house lawyers who
work in the country.
“I think that it’s a fast growing and exciting
community,” he says. “Sophisticated organiza-
tions are increasingly realizing that efficient
lawyers are available in India in large quantities.”
From an early age, Rao was exposed to In-
dia’s myriad cultural and societal offerings. His
father was an officer in the Indian army, and
frequently relocated around the country. Un-
like some children, who might understandably
be hesitant to leave the comforts of home, Rao
embraced the opportunity.
“I grew up in various locations in Northern
and East India. It was an opportunity to expand
myself by making new friends and forming
new bonds regularly. It was a nice childhood in
that sense,” he explains.
Traveling around India as a child gave him a
front row seat to the flourishing diversity and
increasing prosperity that was occurring in
the country at the time. Rao credits his early
childhood with inspiring him to want to make
changes in the world around him.
In 1991, Rao applied to the National Law
School of India University — the first premier law school of its kind in the country. He
FOSTERING THE IN-HOUSE COMMUNITY IN INDIA: A CONVERSATION WITH PRAMOD RAO OF CITIBANK