IP Law Expert Madhu Gadodia's Thoughts on Building a Diverse & Inclusive Team

IP Law Expert Madhu Gadodia's Thoughts on Building a Diverse & Inclusive Team

By: Madhu Gadodia, Deputy Managing Partner, Naik Naik and Company

Madhu Gadodia is the Deputy Managing Partner of Naik Naik and Company (“Firm”), a full-service Indian law firm with offices in Mumbai and Delhi. She is a known name in the Media & Entertainment sector and has represented some of the biggest individuals and brands. An expert in the field of Intellectual Property, Madhu’s practice covers not only copyright but also all areas under IP including trademarks and patents. She has extensive experience handling multiple portfolios of work scattered across various fields including gaming and all facets of established and emerging new media.

Madhu has also handled Banking & Finance matters at the firm and has been representing some of the biggest Financial Institutions and Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs). Madhu has handled some of the largest claims in Debt Recovery matters and now handling a lot of work under the Indian Bankruptcy Code (IBC).

Some of the noteworthy clients represented by Madhu include Amitabh Bachchan, Deepika Padukone, Anil Kapoor, Sonam Kapoor, Ramesh Sippy, Manmohan Shetty, Shashi Ranjan, Viacom 18, T-Series, Tips Industries, Saavn, Phantom, Endemol, Creative Eye Ltd., Pen Films Ltd., Friday Film Works, Kwan, Bling, CA Media, Capital First, and Reliance Broadcasting.

In an interview with the WE team, Madhu speaks about the importance of inclusivity and diversity in the media and entertainment law industry. She also walks us through Naik & Naik’s

How important do you think diversity is in the Media and Entertainment Law Industry and why?

Diversity as a concept has a wide ambit – it is not limited to culture but includes gender, age, religion, caste, ethnicity, etc. It is a very important concept in the media and entertainment industry; media is responsible for creating and distributing content that reflects society and therefore should represent diverse perspectives, experiences, and cultures. Having a diverse team increases exposure to different stories, perceptions, skills, and ideas, which inspires the creation of new media content that people across communities can relate to. Diversity in the industry is essential for ensuring that all voices are heard and that a variety of stories are told. This is more so in India, which is a diverse country, rooted in a rich culture.

Diversity in media is not limited to just creatives but must extend to all its components, including legal teams. This helps to create a cohesive working environment that is inclusive and allows stakeholders to be in sync with one another, which creates better synergy and eventually the creation of a good product. Ultimately this nurtures the development and growth of independent media, which has the potential to develop society.

In your opinion, what are the key benefits of having a diverse team in a law firm?

There are several benefits to having a diverse team, including –

  1. Understanding of different perspectives: When legal teams are diverse, they bring a variety of perspectives to the table, which can help better understand the needs and concerns of different groups of people. This can be particularly important in the media industry, where legal teams may be called upon to advise on issues related to free speech, representation, and cultural sensitivity.
  2. More effective communication: Diverse teams can communicate more effectively with a wide range of stakeholders, including clients, judges, and regulators. This can be especially important in media and entertainment law, where clear communication is essential for navigating complex legal issues that tend to arise.
  3. Improved decision-making: Diverse teams are more likely to make better decisions because they are less prone to one-dimensional thinking, and are more likely to consider a wider range of perspectives and ideas. In media and entertainment law, where decisions can have significant cultural and social implications, diverse legal teams are essential for ensuring that decisions are fair, ethical, and respectful of all stakeholders.
  4. Better representation: Diverse legal teams are better equipped to represent a wide range of clients, including those from underrepresented communities. This can help ensure that clients can get efficient, workable solutions that address their requirements.  

What steps has Naik Naik & Co. taken to increase diversity and inclusion within the Media and Entertainment Law Industry and what have been the results?

Our belief in inclusion and diversity has led to a diverse workforce where everyone feels valued, seen, heard, and respected. There is more innovation, increased customer focus, higher cooperation, and increased productivity and profits over the last few years. Inclusion is vital for diversity to work. We believe in ensuring the psychological safety of our employees so that they engage freely and reach their maximum potential and aspirations professionally.

In our media and entertainment practice, we boast a diverse team - 68% of my team are women, around 50% of my team hail from various states in India that represent diversity in terms of religion, culture, and language, and age group of my team members ranges between 20-43 years. Additionally, I also have several young lawyers on our team, who are still in the nascent stages of their careers having less than 2 years of experience.

As a firm, we take conscious efforts to provide our people with opportunities for growth and nurture the development of their careers. Our policies can be flexible to accommodate the needs of our employees including remote work options, and half-day leaves, as and when required. Further examples of how we promote diversity and inclusivity have been elucidated below.

What challenges have you faced in promoting diversity within your firm and how have you addressed them?

While diversity is integral in creating an all-rounder, flexible, and efficient workforce, some challenges must be overcome. Being an aggressive firm, which focuses on providing highly workable solutions in a short delivery time, efficiency takes a front seat.

However, when people from varied backgrounds come together to work as a team, it can be a rocky road – miscommunication occurs, and there are clashes due to differences of opinion. Overall, any lack of harmony lowers efficiency and can impact delivery.

In such cases, leadership has to take steps to ensure that team members fraternize with one another so that they can be comfortable working together. This not only helps them bond and communicate better but more importantly, encourages collaboration and creates a supportive environment. It builds trust, boosts morale, and promotes inclusivity.

We have undertaken several initiatives to promote unity and cohesion amongst our members, which include regular social events, group sporting activities, and celebrating festivals, as well as weekly knowledge updates where team members are encouraged to create new discourse about interesting points of law.

What strategies do you use to retain diverse talent within your firm, and how do you ensure that they have opportunities for growth and advancement?

In our hiring, we approach all kinds of communities and practice a No Exclusion policy, actively seeking meritocracy above all parameters. With a mindset of cultural enrichment and not culture fitment, Naik Naik & Co. comprises people from varied backgrounds, ethnicities, religious groups, ages, gender, geographical locations, etc.

Our work is often high-pressure and requires a shorter-than-usual turnaround time. Therefore, keeping morale high is imperative because it ensures that work is done efficiently and we can sufficiently address the needs of the client. 

We have implemented several policies to ensure retention of employees – celebrating all religious beliefs by either offering a day off, organizing get-togethers, or distributing gifts, and ensuring each employee feels respected, valued, and cherished, enacting policies such as half-day leave, cab/stay provision for late hours in the office, and remote working options to accommodate for the needs of employees. The scope of consideration expands with special approvals on a case-to-case basis, where certain employees are offered remote working options, sabbaticals for higher education, etc.

In the spirit of promoting dynamic learning and camaraderie, we encourage the team to take up activities such as participation as Judges in College Moot Court Competitions, Bar Council organized events such as Football/ Cricket, etc.

How do you collaborate with other organizations and stakeholders in the Media and Entertainment Law industry to promote diversity and inclusion?

Over the years we have built relationships with various organizations, which has helped shape our perspective by allowing us to access a wider range of work and interact with new people. Some of these collaborations include our new venture with renowned Indian law firm Anand & Anand, and our arrangement with the international law firm, Gowling WLG.

Through our joint venture with Anand & Anand called Anand & Naik, we have had the opportunity to work with several people across the country. With Gowling WLG, we have had the chance to advise foreign clients who face unique challenges in the Indian jurisdiction. This exposure to different ideas, working styles, and experiences helps us reflect and strengthen our structure while maintaining focus on core values.

What advice do you have for other law firms looking to promote diversity and inclusion within the Media and Entertainment Law industry?

It is not merely about having a diverse workforce but building a conducive environment that makes them stay. Keeping morale high and ensuring that every person’s needs are taken care of, especially during exceptional circumstances, is a necessity.

It is often easier to create an environment with similar people – in terms of culture, religion, language, gender, age, etc. however, in order to grow you must be challenged. These challenges, especially at the initial stages, can be difficult, however, there must be a conscious effort to grow out of them and encourage cooperation among different people.

What do you see as the future of diversity and inclusion in the Media and Entertainment Law industry, and what role do you think your firm will play in shaping that future?

We have consciously strived to promote inclusivity and diversity in our workforce. While it is easy to talk about it, implementing conducive policies for it is a harder task. We hope that we will be able to maintain our position in this regard and strengthen our policies to adapt to changes as and when they may arise.