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Tributes remember the man in a hurry: Pathbreaking GC, DSK consultant Girish Gokhale

Girish Gokhale, RIPGirish Gokhale, RIP

Long-time in-house counsel and DSK Legal consultant Girish Gokhale passed away last week. We have collected several tributes below.

Remembering Girish Gokhale

By Vaibhav Ganjiwale

On 27th November 2008, a day after the worst terror attack on Mumbai (and India), when the working folks of Mumbai were not to be found at their work places, among the few to be found working was Girish Gokhale.

From his cabin in an almost unattended L&T House at Ballard Estate, Gokhale was busy running business as usual; responding to emails, clearing invoices and calling his colleagues and friends; asking them to step out and work.

As a 3rd year law student, I was then interning with the L&T’s in-house legal team, and even I was not spared. Though he was kind enough to send his car to pick me up from my hostel in south Mumbai. Upon reaching office when I asked him if he had come to office just to prove a point, in a tone full of obviousness he added that it’s the least he could do for his city and his country.

10 years later on 23rd November 2018, succumbing to severe renal complications Girish Gokhale passed away in the city he loved so much. He was just 58 years old.

A graduate of GLC Mumbai, Gokhale cleared the prestigious solicitor’s exam in 1985. He joined Mulla & Mulla & Craigie Blunt & Caroe in the same year as a litigation associate and remained with the firm till 1994. From 1994 till 1999 he worked with the Tata Group. Subsequently he joined L&T Limited where he rose to the top legal post. He left L&T in 2009 for stints at Lafarge India and JSW as group general counsel.

After being in in-house legal roles for almost 20 years he returned to the disputes practice by joining DSK Legal in early 2014 as a consultant.

Many remember Girish Gokhale was one of the most connected person in Mumbai’s legal circles. However, his associations were not restricted to the legal community (read, both bar and bench), but extended to other spheres, including politics and entertainment.

While networking is considered an essential in legal practice, Gokhale believed in nurturing relationships. This could be the reason why he was good friends, not just with his business associates but in many cases even with their family members.

The role of an in-house lawyer in large corporations has changed drastically in the last two decades. In-house lawyers of Gokhale’s generation, in many ways have led this transition.

He expected general counsel to talk fearlessly to their boards.

While speaking at a gathering of general counsel he once called upon the GC community to embody Vidura of Mahabharata (King’s advisor), who always placed welfare of the kingdom above the interests of the King.

The untimely death of Girish Gokhale has deprived the community of an experienced legal mind whose true legacy will always be defined by the many hearts he touched. Gokhale is survived by his mother, wife, daughter and all of his friends for whom he was family.

By Vaibhav Ganjiwale, of Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas, writing in a personal capacity.

(I would like to thank Oswald D’Souza and Hazel Farro of L&T Limited for inspiring me to pen down my thoughts on Mr Gokhale).

Girish Gokhale, the man in a hurry

By Venkat Rao, JMC Projects

For about less than two years, Girish Gokhale was my boss in JSW Steel. I met him for the first time, when he joined JSW as Head-Legal and General Counsel in mid-2011.

“Don’t call me Sir, call me Girish”, this was his first instruction. I found it difficult to practise initially. Then I got used to it very quickly, because he threatened me that for every “Sir”, Rs.100/- would be levied as penalty and the money so accumulated would be spent for a party with the team.

“I am the original 2G”, was another famous dialogue of his, during the time when the spectrum issue was before the Supreme Court.

He used to reach office very early, on some days as early as 7.15 in the morning. He would be impatient by 9am to discuss the day’s agenda, thus making me feel I was late to office, even when I reached by 9.

Working with him was fun and stress-free, which is not the case with many in-house legal teams. He made complex issues look simple.

He was large-hearted and always took care of me when I travelled with him. He ensured that I enjoy all the privileges that he enjoyed.

That he was well connected to the who-is-who of legal fraternity is well known, but I had the privilege of witnessing this facet of him first hand.

During one of our travels, I found a long list of people Girish had planned to meet. I was with him in all his meetings. We met some senior counsel, advocates and others.

But the most interesting meeting was at about 10 pm. The guest was working as loader (I don’t know whether it is the right word, but that is how the guest had introduced himself to me) of luggage in an airline.

We met him in Girish’s room in a star hotel. Girish was treating this guest with a lot of affection (that was natural of Girish). The gentleman was pursuing an LLB and wanted guidance from Girish. The same gentleman met us next day at the airport, helping us with the luggage.

The Taj Mahal Hotel at Mansingh Road, New Delhi was almost a second home for Girish.

He always made it a point to stop and talk to the tall guy with a big mustache at the entrance whenever he was at the hotel. Girish told me many times that relationships have to be built and nurtured by devoting time; money cannot help in in building relationships.

Girish always appeared to be in a hurry while working. Once I complained to him that he was being impatient and irritable and was not allowing me to explain something in detail. His reply was “it is natural for an intelligent person to get irritated by stupidity”.

I never thought he will leave us also in a hurry.

Venkat Rao (legal head JMC Projects (India) Ltd, a Kalpataru group company)

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Like +1 Object -0 Guest 28 Nov 18, 14:38
RIP Mr. Gokhale. He was a fantastic lawyer, great networker and above all a good human being.
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Like +0 Object -0 Old Law Firm 28 Nov 18, 16:36
Yes, thats the personality GG was. Quite well connected in Delhi as well. Apt tribute. RIP !
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Like +7 Object -0 RIP 28 Nov 18, 21:29  interesting
Mr Gokhale was a stalwart of the legal profession - the kind of person who often goes unnoticed because the focus is on the big-name senior counsel, law firms or judiciary. But apart from his legal prowess and acumen, Mr Gokhale should be remembered for being a peoples' person - not a *some* peoples' person, but an *all* peoples' person.

I remember, and shall miss, Mr Gokhale most for this reason. He was a personal mentor and inspiration who taught me the importance of staying grounded and true to one's beliefs. He was ever generous and looked to young talent with whom to share his knowledge, expertise and access to opportunities. He treated every person in his life with the same degree of kindness and respect, regardless of their stature or strata. In an increasingly divisive society, that is an invaluable lesson.
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Like +0 Object -0 RAJEEV DEWAL 09 Dec 18, 20:48
Difficult to believe Girish is no more.

Great lawyer and human being, he was always inspiring and helpful.

Many years before we were running a In House Lawyers informal group, with his guidance and generous support.

Girish, will always remember you...
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