Esha Shekhar is a lawyer in the SaaS and data privacy space. She is a Certified Information Privacy Professional for Europe Certified by International Association of Privacy Professionals.

Ms. Shekhar is Founder and Principal Advocate at ES Law Offices

She advises & Trains SMEs, MNCs, PSUs, Govt. depts on POSH and gender laws. She is also an author and has written “Understanding workplace laws for women in India”

In an interview with LawSikho, Esha Shekhar speaks about POSH and gender laws and shares insights on how to become a privacy professional

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Edited excerpts from the interview below:

How did your professional journey shape up?

Esha: My professional journey has been very nonlinear in terms of what a lawyer goes through generally because I didn’t start with a typical law firm or a lawyer office journey. I didn’t get through any of the top law firms during the placement interviews. It was quite a shock for me as my CGPA and rank in the university were good. 

After college, I kept applying for some jobs and I got a job as a researcher on a TV news channel show. Bloomberg India was at that point of time launching a TV show on their business news channel, which is called The Courtroom which would cover weekly news that were very relevant in the legal industry. This job role helped me to look at the law industry from the outside.

And during that one year of Bloomberg, I came to the conclusion that I do want to continue being a lawyer and I want to start with litigation because I spent a lot of time in courts.

So effectively that translated into my next three years. I worked with a law firm called Dua Associates in the litigation team and then I worked with HSA in their energy regulatory litigation team. Then I started moving into advisory slowly. And at that point of time what we did was that I along with Abhyuday and Ramanuj we had a conversation and we decided to launch a website and a platform called ClickLawyer to help connect lawyers and clients in a much more effective manner. So we spent around two years building that platform. The buildup was great. Ever since then, I have focused on being a legal entrepreneur. Now I work in three specific areas-tech contracts, data privacy and data protection work and the third area of law is POSH. 

You are a certified information privacy professional for Europe. What does it mean to have this certification? What would you advise students who want to prepare for this exam?

Esha: So basically I am a certified information privacy professional in the Europe area, which basically means that I am certified to provide GDPR compliance related advisory in the Europe area because, because the CIPPE focuses on the implementation of GDPR.

Now there are different CIPP trainings. They are covering four different jurisdictions.The reason I chose Europe was because GDPR is the mother of all privacy legislations across the world. It was the first and it is the most comprehensive one. So my understanding was that if I do GDPR, and if I understand that law, well, then understanding the other laws and decoding other legislations will not be that big an issue. 

CIPP is the benchmark of all privacy certifications. The recognition value is way higher. So when you say you’re a CIPP, people would know what exactly it means. 

For the certification there is an examination.It is a very strict fail and pass marking for the exam. However, I would say that it’s not difficult to prepare for it. It just requires you to be thorough in your study and do it smartly. A lot of it is MCQ based but the questions are situation based. So they’re very confusing. You’ll see four options. You’ll find all four options identical. So you need to be very clear. 

Data privacy, SaaS, these are the fields still shaping up in our country. So, what do you think is the significance of internships if a student is interested in these areas and how early should they start? 

The earlier the, the better. The thing with the intersection of law and technology is that it’s evolving very fast.

My advice to a student is to pick up certain specific areas, which are standard areas. Something that will transcend the conversation around all emerging tech areas. I would say, start working or interning with firms who have a significant tech practice. 

Moving to your other area of expertise. Tell us more about your interest in POSH and gender laws.

If you look at Indian laws, and if you look at Indian workplace laws,of course, there are gaps and a lot more can be done, but as compared to even first world countries like US, we have very good comprehensive laws when it comes to sexual harassment at workplace or maternity benefit, or Shops and Establishment Act. We have very comprehensive laws, the problem always has been how to implement it.

The problem is then it doesn’t translate into that ground level implementation and that is where my interest comes from. 

You spoke of the problems with implementation of law and the Supreme Court also recently flagged some lapses in implementation of POSH Act. In your opinion, what specifically are the problems which make it difficult for the implementation of the POSH Act? 

The biggest difficulty is in terms of knowledge on both sides, a lack of knowledge from the side of the entities who are supposed to implement this at the workplace, and also lack of awareness on the side of the people who the law is supposed to impact.

It is so much about the organizations to start implementing. Many of them don’t know that they have to comply or they may feel we may keep it on the back burner. That is what is the biggest problem. And this is not a problem that can be solved immediately. It’s a long term process but it also needs to start somewhere. In my last seven years of working on the law, I have seen a massive improvement in terms of now companies knowing about POSH law. Now, why did that happen? That happened because of the Companies Act 2013, there is now a provision which states that in the annual report, the directors have to put their ICC details. 

Another thing that started happening was that it started becoming a part of due diligence. 

Tell us about your book.

Esha: The reason I wrote the book was because I’ve been working On POSH for a very long time. There was no book in the market which focused on workplace laws for women. 

So we wanted to bring the spotlight on them. We didn’t want it to be lost in the entire labor compliance. So, therefore, the idea of the book came, fortunately, as I was thinking about the book, there were other publishers who were as excited about the book, and we were grateful that Bloomsbury made an offer and me and my colleague, Neha Koshi could publish through them.

The target audience for the book was not just lawyers. It was also meant for non lawyers.  

One was part, part A, which focused on the law itself. and breaking it down into easy to understand sections and part B focused on covering the judicial proceedings, the case laws. 

Even ICC members can consult it because the entire inquiry has been covered in detail in the book.

If someone wants to intern at ES law offices, how can they get in? 

The selection criteria that I’ve set up is that you need to mandatorily have writing experience. I would like to see the different internship experiences that one has gotten and what have you done in a particular area that you claim that you like. 

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