Meet Pakistan’s Most Prolific Tech Lawyer – Safi Ullah Ghauri

1. Tell us a bit about yourself?
My family belongs to Bahawalpur but I have grown up in pretty much every city in Pakistan since my father was a bureaucrat. Work wise, I’ve had the experience of working with the Golden Circle Law Firms in London, New York and Orlando and when I came back to Pakistan, I started my own practice and firm, Esquare Legal which has some of the best partners and associates in the country. On the side, I’m a coffee connoisseur, a tech-enthusiast, environmentalist and deep-sea diver!

2. How has your experience with various tech-firms impacted your skillset?
I’m fascinated with technology and working with various tech firms has given me insight and the added skill set to manage projects in a more logical and organized manner, as well as taking on board the concept of a constant improvement through feedback, something that coders are used to but lawyers simply are not.

3. Seeing the digitalization of the world, how necessary is it for lawyers to be tech-savvy?
To me, it seems imperative for lawyers to become more tech savvy especially since we have various search engines which can give us advice on a wide array of topics. Research work today takes 5 minutes where earlier it used to take 5 days! Also, with the advancement of technology, legal professionals will need to effectively combat A.I replacing certain aspects of their work. It’s really a matter of time now before lawyers, as we know them, will become redundant and therefore, their only choice is to stay ahead of the curve.

4. How has your passion for Technology helped you as a lawyer?
My passion for tech has helped me greatly in staying ahead of the competition, and without sounding too full of myself, well just about everything! As an example, our firm might be the only one that uses modern software for case management, relationship management and automation tools that ensure that our clients get the best service when they engage us.

5. Is the Pakistani Legal industry as tech friendly/tech-savvy as the international legal community?
Things are changing for the better in Pakistan but mostly, Pakistani legal fraternity is extremely conservative and continues to scoff at technology and its global impact. This is a major reason and concern as to why Pakistan still has no offices of any international law firm. It’s unfortunate that international law firms simply cannot find Pakistani partners who are educated in modern technology!

6. What are the upcoming technologies that will change how law work?
The upcoming technologies that will change law are 1) Artificial intelligence that will greatly reduce time required to understand a problem 2) Blockchain and smart contracts that will make self-executing contracts and 3) Deep machine learning that will increase the depth of legal research and documentation.

7. What is the state of Data and Privacy laws in Pakistan?
Data and privacy laws are still at an infancy stage in Pakistan and it’s a long journey ahead especially as international pressure mounts on us to update and create such laws. There has been progress as some companies have self-regulated and the government continues to bring internet and social media usage under domains of criminal law.

8. How has your journey been with Fintech so far?
My journey with FinTech, so far, has been extremely fruitful. One of our clients is Qistpay which has become the biggest FinTech start up in Pakistan bringing in a pre-seed investment of $15 Million. With it, we have been setting industry standard for rules and regulations governing the FinTech market.

9. What is Proptech and how do you see its future for a country like Pakistan?
Proptech is the digitization of real estate. We all know that the primary form of investment in Pakistan is purchasing land so imagine the future where such transactions increase to beyond the speed of stock markets and valuations are done digitally so one is not ripped off by property dealers. I am working with the biggest Proptechs of Pakistan and we have super exciting projects coming up.

10. Which cryptocurrencies have you invested in and why?
I am a believer of cryptos and I have my money where my mouth is. I’ve made investments into Etherium because its greener and can be used to make smart contracts. I’ve also been learning its code language solidity to be able to create more uses for this currency.

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11. As the world moves towards digitization, what role can the legal industry play to ensure this system is effective and has minimum risks?
This is an extremely important question because as the world moves towards digitization we have started to see crimes related to cryptocurrency e.g. the infamous Silk Road. It’s therefore important that the laws catch up and ensure that no single industry player remains unchecked and the Government comes up with stringent regulations in this regard. Recently, our Courts and regulators have been waking up to this reality and I would like to see them play more active roles to ensure the betterment of people.

12. How can the legal industry drive changes in the technology sector?
Lawyers have the seminal job of shaping policies that directly impact how the tech sector would end up. Where some countries are adopting new technologies, others are banning them. The difference in these single line laws will determine whether a country is developed or underdeveloped in just a few years.

13. How can tech help the Pakistani economy?
In my opinion tech has the potential to add 1 Trillion rupees to Pakistan’s economy in the next 5 years! Nothing else can make us that rich!

14. Where do you see the tech industry of Pakistan in the next 10 years?
Kind of cliché to say but it depends on the Government – if it’s supportive, the tech industry will explode in Pakistan and will overtake our regional neighbors. If not, our best brains will simply fly out for a better future.

15. How do you picture your and your firm’s role in it?
I would like to think that my role in the future hopefully would be someone who brings up policy level changes in Pakistan. My firm is already getting clients from around the world and perhaps in due course we could become thought leader in tech ventures both domestically and internationally!

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