An Associate Partner at P&A Law Offices (Mumbai), Vijay Purohit is a Dispute Resolution Lawyer with around 11 years of experience. Vijay’s practice areas include contractual and commercial disputes, civil litigation, insolvency & bankruptcy and white-collar crimes. He has represented clients from India and overseas, as well as Public Sector Undertaking (PSUs) in a wide range of disputes in the oil & gas, energy and power sectors. Vijay has conducted domestic & international commercial arbitrations (both ad-hoc and institutional). He is a member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb).
Q. Could you tell us about P & A Law Offices and the firm’s key practice areas?
P&A Law Offices assists and advises clients in India and internationally on a wide range of corporate commercial transactions as well as on dispute resolution matters. The industry areas where the firm has advised and appeared for clients include power, infrastructure & mining, healthcare, pharmaceuticals & chemicals, TMT & IT, Real Estate, Consumer Goods & Services, E-Commerce. The firm has a robust dispute resolution practice and the team has been a part of notable commercial arbitrations and investment treaty arbitrations. The dispute resolution team has also been a part of some landmark judgments in the domain of insolvency and bankruptcy.
Q. What do you have to say about the Arbitration mechanism in India and its comparisons to countries like Singapore, London, etc.?
With the 2015 (and certain subsequent) amendments, significant steps have been taken to make India an arbitration friendly seat. While there is still room for improvement in order to match or come at par with the arbitration regimes in the jurisdictions you have mentioned, a lot is being done by all the stake holders i.e. the government, judiciary, arbitration practitioners and importantly, businesses to make arbitration a desired mode of dispute resolution in India.
Take for instance, the issue of enforcement of a foreign award in India. The recent trends have shown a pro-enforcement approach by the courts, including the Supreme Court. Similarly, the approach of courts as far as interference in arbitration proceedings is concerned, is becoming minimalistic. We have seen homegrown arbitral institutions (such as MCIA) coming up in India to make the arbitration ecosystem more robust. So yes, the future looks bright.
Q. Do you think AI and machine learning can enhance the legal industry?
Innovation and technology are good for any industry, if productivity and the quality of deliverables are enhanced. AI can act as a support to the legal industry, particularly with respect to legal research. It can reduce the time spent by lawyers in doing research manually. Lawyers can in turn spend the time thus saved by using AI in activities which require focused attention and deliberations.
Q. The outbreak of Covid-19 has forced Indian courts to go online. Do you think this virtual/digital system of courts can become an integral part of the judiciary?
Definitely. While I think that it is not possible to do away with physical hearings completely, the system of virtual hearings can certainly act as an aid in hearing matters which do not require adducing of evidence. For example, first appeals or second appeals where the courts have to rely on the existing record and oral hearings, can be heard through video conferencing. We have seen courts even hear final arguments through virtual hearings during the pandemic. Likewise, a lot of arbitrations are taking place through virtual media.
While there are a lot of positives from this, factors such as internet connectivity/access to internet, remoteness of a location, training the staff as well as lawyers (particularly in Tier-II and Tier-III cities) are also required to be considered before virtual hearings become a norm. Once these issues are addressed, virtual hearings can surely be a value addition to our justice delivery system.
Q. You have been practicing for over a decade now. What has been your biggest takeaway from this profession?
The journey (which is now a little over 11 years) has been an enriching one. As it is in every profession, the formative years are very important. In that sense, my initial years in the legal profession were full of learning. I have been, and continue to be, mentored by some great seniors. In this profession, you deal with people from diverse sectors and businesses. You learn about these businesses (some of which are very technical) and business models. As a lawyer, you are (and ought to be) always aware of the social, economical and political developments as these developments in some way or the other coincide with the legal profession. Therefore, it is also very important to develop a reading habit as a lawyer. These are some of my takeaways thus far.
Q. During your college days, you participated in a lot of moot court competitions. In fact, in 2009, you were a Coach for the Philip C. Jessup International Moot Court Competition (Indian regional Round). How important do you think is mooting for law students? Also, if you could share some tips for acing the art of mooting, that could be beneficial for students.
Mooting is an extremely helpful activity in developing research, articulation and oratory skills. It also helps in developing/improving analytical and problem-solving skills. To be good at it, one needs to carefully dissect a moot problem and identify the research points; strategically divide the research point amongst team members and finally, identify the relevant material to be put in a memorial. As for the oratory skills required for mooting are concerned, one can improve gradually by taking part in moot court competitions regularly. Having said which, it is equally important to focus on your academics and other activities such as writing research papers, paper presentations, internships etc.
Q. What skills have you found vital to become a successful lawyer?
It is very difficult to put these skills in a straight-jacketed formula because as a lawyer the learning never stops, and one learns daily. However, to answer your question, and based on my observation of those who have made a mark in this field:
(a) It is very important to develop a reading habit [right from the law school days], as I said at the outset.
(b) While one must do as much hands-on work as one can, it is important to be a team player.
(c) Keeping one’s self updated about one’s practice domain is a must.
(d) Understanding a client’s requirements and suggesting the best legal strategy to meet such requirements is an important skill, which one develops over a period of time.
(e) Lastly, one needs to be extremely patient in challenging situations as this is a very intense profession.