Manav Gecil Thomas, Partner at Thomas George and Associates Shares his Thoughts on Networking Strategies in Litigation and Role of Tech and AI in Legal Operations

This interview has been published by Prabhjot Singh, Priyanka Karwa and The SuperLawyer Team

What motivated you to take law as a career and how has been the decision so far?

As all students, I was also confused during my school days as to which profession I should choose. Thereafter, my mom suggested me to take up law in lines of the profession of my father as he has already established a base. I did not qualify CLAT, however, I qualified for UPES, LAWCET and ILS Law College, Pune.

Keeping the long standing reputation and I decided to join ILS Law College, Pune. All throughout my college life, I enjoyed participating in Moot Court competitions. After completing my law, I immediately joined my father’s law firm i.e., THOMAS GEORGE & ASSOCIATES. Thereafter, my mom was instrumental in insisting me to complete my LL.M.

I did LL.M in Constitutional Law from O.U.P.G. College, Basheerbagh and secured a Gold Medal which was a lifetime dream come true. My father has been an amazing mentor as he not only trained me in drafting, filing procedures, clerical works but he also gave me the freedom to take up matters and handle them independently from day one …!

My first appearance itself was arguing a final hearing before the then united Hon’ble Andhra Pradesh High Court of a Criminal Revision Case pertaining to 2008. Ever since then, I have never stopped and I hope to argue many more important cases in the years ahead of my life.

Arguing the law and interpreting the law are two important facets of my litigation life which I will always cherish. So, though law happened by accident, I am happy to go the way it carries me. There is a unique unexplained sense of happiness that, I feel while arguing cases before different judicial and non-judicial fora throughout the country. With all the tremendous pressures that we as advocates undergo, it is only, that joy that I get, after arguing different kinds of matters that keeps me going ahead…!

Your internship experiences are filled with reputed Advocates and Judges, was there any roadmap for the same or all did was in flow? How would you guide students in choosing internships?

As a law student after participating in few moot court competitions, I was inclined towards litigation. My first internship was with my father and mentor who taught me the basic art of advocacy, that includes drafting, filing procedures etc.

Thereafter, I went on to intern with Designated Senior Counsel Late Padmanabha Reddy where I was mesmerised to see sir argue different kinds of matters at length on his legs from 10:30 AM to 04:30 PM…! I would observe, sir argue most complex matters with utmost patience and he was always calm and composed, the most essential art I learnt. Subsequently, I interned with Adv. S. Niranjan Reddy now Designated Senior Counsel/ Member of Parliament, at whose offices I learnt corporate litigation and its nuances.

Thereafter, I had the unique opportunity of working with Honourable Justice Kurian Joseph (Retired), Former Judge Hon’ble Supreme Court of India and while interning with his Lordship, I was able to understand what all goes in the minds of the judges post arguments since, I was also involved in the legal research that would assist judges in arriving at their decisions. I was able to see the judicial process closly that goes on after the arguments and before the judgement is pronounced.

This experience has channelised my arguments in a slightly different manner and I am dedicated His Lordship for imparting this knowledge in me. Thereafter, I had a short stint with late Advocate Lily Thomas who had shown me no matter whatever hurdles and challenges life throws at us one must keep moving. Lastly, in my final year, I interned with Designated Senior Counsel & Hon’ble R. Basant sir Former Kerala High Court Judge. During this internship I received unique lessons of life & law, wherein I learnt how a mentor can treat his associates, juniors and interns with patience & care and at the same time learnt how hard work and dedication plays an important role in the life of an advocate. Students are not always sure as to what kind of an advocate they want to become after graduating, so it is always beneficial to intern at different places where there are variety of matters.

Students should always start their internships with advocates who have a variety of trial court matters. In trial courts, students can learn about procedural laws, they can observe Cross Examinations and trial advocacy skills.

Thereafter, students must intern with advocates practising in the High Courts and then the Supreme Court if possible. After this I would suggest students to intern with different corporate law firms. By the end of their internships, I would say with utmost surety, that, the students will be able to decide their career paths…!

Manav, any specific reason for choosing litigation over corporate, what created your interest in that?

I hope my answer to this question does not create any controversy amongst corporate law practitioners. I do not feel that I am made up for only drafting contracts or due diligence as I like to see the law in motion and that, only happens in the courts of law. In litigation, one see and meets different types of clients with different issues and in pursuing those issues one has to appear before different judicial and non-judicial fora and convince the Honourable Judges on unique points of laws and facts. Litigation requires a unique skill of being able to put forth your points with absolute clarity and conviction.

For the same, one has to be well versed and well abreast with the laws and case laws. In corporate law, there are different nuances of law which are being explored on a day-to-day basis but none of the corporate lawyers are able to see their documents being interpreted in the courts of law. That is why, I choose litigation over corporate law.

However, one must understand that even though I am a litigating lawyer, on a day-to-day basis, I am dealing with various aspects of corporate law which we cannot avoid being a lawyer. Thus, I believe that the so-called difference between a corporate lawyer and a litigating professional is a grey area which cannot be compartmentalised. So, I fix no label to myself….I leave it to the readers to categorise me as any lawyer they feel based on the work I execute.

As lawyers, society depends on us in a lot of situations and pro-bono matters is one of them. How far do you resonate with this?

Society depends on a number of aspects that keeps evolving and law is an important part of this evolving society. The changing needs of the society requires dynamic changes by the practitioners of law. In today’s world where everyone is in the rat race to earn, a lot of poor litigants suffer with inefficient representation as the fees that they can pay is less. I completely believe that in the background of the unique requirements of the society as of today, pro bono matters would definitely assist and help the people in need in a unique and effective manner.

Many a times, I come across poor litigants who are not guided in the right direction due to which they faced unpleasant consequences. In this background all the us at THOMAS GEORGE AND ASSOCIATES believe in helping the really needy clients and when the situation demands we do take up pro bono matters. In criminal matters I observed that the people arrayed as accused in many matters do not have the necessary sources to finance their litigation expenses and tend to seek help from legal aid.

Many a times, legal aid is not providing effective and efficient representation thereby rendering the whole purpose futile. Thus, professionals with experience taking up pro bono matters really helps the litigants in need.

According to you, what networking strategies should be adopted by the first-generation lawyers specifically in litigation?

The struggles of first-generation lawyers are untold in today’s world. There is no secret mantra that can be told as to the strategies that can be adopted, however, these are a few tools which may come handy in the years to come. Networking is a very important part of litigation which one will understand as they progress in their profession. One must always bear in mind that every person one meets in any walk of life can be one’s prospective client and thus one should interact with people and make them know that one is a practising lawyer.

There is an apt example for the aforementioned statement of mine; once while I was in a club and while I was on the way to the washroom, I met an acquaintance of mine and in a casual conversation made him know that I am practising in Hyderabad. After a year I received a call by this acquaintance who had referred a very big company for coming on board as their retainer. So, one can land up with a client in any place.

Keeping in touch with your alma mater and alumni will also help you in being referred matters from different states pertaining to your jurisdiction. Being active on social media can also help to a certain extent. Giving internships to students, is a way of giving back to the society and in return over the years to come, one will see the benefit from the same. Also, one must always remember that hard work pays off and the reason I say so, is your work must speak for yourself and that in turn would result in receiving the due benefits of networking.

Please elaborate for us your current role

I am currently the Name Partner at THOMAS GEORGE & ASSOCIATES, Hyderabad. The Managing and Founding Partner of the firm is my father, Advocate Thomas George and the Senior Partner is my mother. This being the background of my firm, the positions that we hold really does not matter for us internally. That being said, on a day-to-day basis I appear on various matters before various Judicial and Non-judicial fora throughout India with my base practice in Hyderabad.

My entire day goes in arguing matters before different courts of law and in the evening, I spend my time in preparing for matters listed either on the immediate next day or for the days to come and also meet my clients. I supervise the administrative matters of the firm.

I delegate matters to the juniors/associates at the firm, teach/assign work/cross check the drafts assigned to the Associates/Virtual/Non-virtual interns. I brief the Managing and Founding Partner and Senior Partner of the firm on matters that needs to be argued. I also help my Associates in practising their presentations before the courts scheduled for the next day, so that, they do not face any difficulty.

So far we’ve seen employees being harassed at workplace wrt different situations, how well do you consider the role of employment laws in the same?

It is always beneficial for employees to research about the firm where they seek employment before scheduling any interview. I also think it will be beneficial if one can speak to people who worked in the said place prior to joining. The role of employment laws is not very effective as, the internal committee for any kind of harassment consist of members of the same firm.

Furthermore, if any employee raises a complaint and leaves the organisation the next organisation will always look at this employee with a speck in their eyes and thus there is a fear in employees from making any complaints whatsoever.

How does AI play a significant role in helping lawyers and what are the consequences for the same?

AI is already playing a significant role in lives of lawyers. As on today we can see AI’s tremendous use in research while comparing to our senior generation lawyers. The search engines have been extremely helpful in researching for case laws as well as to know overruled decisions, landmark decisions et cetera. Case management has become very simple with the help of various digital applications that provides the statuses of all the matters of the firm with the click of a button. Dictation and drafting have become 10 times easier than what it was with the usage of the software that types out whatever we dictate with almost 90% perfection.

Another application that I have come across in the recent times is a scanner pen which can be used to copy paste contents from various hard copy of agreements/drafts into the word document. AI will always remain a tool in the hands of a lawyer but can never replace mankind especially lawyers, because, the brain used to interpret law in a unique manner is not AI but it is that unique skill of that lawyer. Furthermore, convincing a judge is done by advocates who present their matters in ways they deem fit which again cannot be substituted by AI. For people who disagree then mankind itself will be overtaken by AI.

There are also applications that are being developed for taking queries from clients through chat boxes and these apps help in consolidating the client consultations to a certain extent. Such client consultations would in a way save the precious time of lawyers. However, how much ever technology advances, if it lacks  human touch in the works of a lawyer then I believe there will not be effective representation in those cases.

Manav, we’ve been witnessing students shifting from litigation to corporate or most of the times they dont even take litigation as an option, what can be the reasons for the same?

Personally, I would like to disagree. In the recent years I have seen many students in fact choosing litigation over corporate law firms. The ground reality is that, as on date, there are no vacancies in many chambers as they are already flooded with young students who have just graduated. However, students do prefer a comfortable and stable life with heavy packages which corporate law firms provide and that can be the only reason that students would prefer corporate law firms over litigation.

Once litigating lawyers start paying their juniors at least the amounts that are required for the basic survival in the cities they practice, students will definitely choose litigation. What I have observed in corporate law firms is that due to tremendous burn outs over the period of time people shift back to litigation thereby losing their initial precious years of the experience. Students must understand that litigation is like an investment which grows manifolds.

The life of a corporate lawyer or a judicial officer or a lecturer usually ends upon attaining the age of superannuation, however, the life of an advocate has no age limit and in a lighter note; when all your fellow colleagues are retiring, the practising lawyers start earning even more…!

Lastly, any piece of advice for our young lawyers

Repeating what you would have already heard from various stalwarts in the profession, I would like to say that there are no shortcuts to success.

Hard work, dedication, diligence, perseverance, patience are the keystones to success. We must always remember that success cannot be achieved overnight but it requires tremendous hard work.

Whenever, we see successful professionals, we only tend to see their achievements without knowing the amount of pain, sacrifices, compromise that they had to undergo to reach the place that they are at today.

Having patience will definitely play a great role in reaching those heights of success that are channelled for you. One must always remember to maintain a work – life balance which everyone has been talking about in the recent times. One must take time off work, spend time with family and friends as well, which are very important.

I always tell my hardworking interns not to forget to chill in life. All the best!!!

Get in touch with Manav Gecil Thomas-

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