The Legaltech Wave: India’s lawyers walk the e-talk

In August 2020, a Forrester report had said 47% of Indian companies had their revenues at risk due to a lack of digitisation.

legal tech
As per a recent report by Gartner, the spend on LegalTech by Indian firms will increase threefold by 2025.

Conventional wisdom says the legal sector is the most hidebound among professional services. That notion has taken a big knock, with LegalTech moving quickly from the fringes of the sector to becoming an important point of conversation in the mainstream legal industry. The pandemic played a catalytic role, forcing legal services to adopt technology at a rapid pace.

The resultant efficiency gains and greater accuracy levels have prompted all stakeholders — from lawyers, law firms and corporate India to the regulators and the judiciary — to not only endorse LegalTech but campaign for its faster adoption.

“We now use AI-enabled technologies for document automation, proofreading, due diligence, legal research and e-discovery,” says Komal Gupta, chief innovation officer at Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas (CAM). A full-service law firm, CAM launched India’s first LegalTech incubator Prarambh in 2018. Gupta says CAM has completed two successful cohorts till now and has worked with various LegalTech founders to help them develop “practical solutions to real problems”.

The greatest advantage that LegalTech offers is that it reduces the turnaround time for legal help significantly. And for a country where the legal system is marked by sloth, inordinate delays and an obdurate resistance to change, this is indeed a big boon.

Consider this: Just with an incipient 10% penetration level, the size of the domestic LegalTech market is $380 million now, according to an estimate by Omidyar Network India. It also foresees the market to grow at an explosive rate of 35% annually over the next few years. According to a recent CLOC report, 54-57% of Indian companies intend to automate their legal processes.

In August 2020, a Forrester report had said 47% of Indian companies had their revenues at risk due to a lack of digitisation. As per a recent report by Gartner, the spend on LegalTech by Indian firms will increase threefold by 2025.

The term LegalTech refers collectively to assorted technological solutions ranging from online case filings, virtual conferences, client meetings and court hearings to more high-end tech tools like automated litigation management and research, document automation and even artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and data analytics.

These solutions aid and support various portfolios and interconnects the three primary legal constituents — corporate legal departments, law firms and the authorities — regulatory and statutory bodies, tribunals and the judiciary.

Raian N Karanjawala, managing partner at Karanjawala & Company, says: “Video conferencing not only saves time and money, but also ensures that a lot more work gets done in the day.” According to him, the other great change post-Covid has been the manner in which research is being done. For this, the law firm has an app which uses AI technology. Karanajawala and Co has been digitalising its records over the last few months.

Gupta notes that a principal factor that drives the legal sector to automation is it helps cuts down on “repetitive and sometimes monotonous work”.

Praveen Kulkarni, co-founder and director of PracticeLeague, a LegalTech firm, says a fast-evolving and user-friendly automation process in the legal sector is driving the sector towards innovation strategy and helping it optimise its operating models. It also helps to leverage data analysis to assess and process legal matters and benchmark these against best global practices. “LegalTech can help a company coordinate with its entire environment consisting of policies and regulations, its customers and vendors while constantly adapting to the changes,” he notes.

Kulkarni’s Pune-based firm, which has a clientele across 21 industry verticals, helps them manage contract life cycles as well offer comprehensive enterprise-legal and law-practice management solutions.

Gupta says that while e-discovery, contracts and legal research are more mature areas for the application, dispute-settlement process and the judiciary itself can benefit hugely through a case management system that is integrated with an AI-based research tool. “Similarly, compliance, recruitment and internships, dictation, translation and transcription, proofreading, tools predicting cost and potential outcome of a case, data analytics to show patterns and outcomes et al. can all make a significant difference in the delivery of legal services,” she says.

Besides allowing law firms to cut costs, LegalTech also makes lawyers’ lives much easier. “We have also developed various in-house solutions like the OneCAM app which allows mobility to our lawyers, cataylse collaboration that enables lawyers to share resources and address the peaks and troughs in business. We are in the midst of building an app for our disputes team to facilitate their drafting and sharing expert notes,” reveals Bishwajit Dubey, partner at CAM.

LegalTech enables a flexible configurable process that allows an organisation’s constituent functions to go on smoothly, even amid the vicissitudes of policies and regulations. It also buttresses the decision support system with insightful, actionable reports.

Dubey notes that AI-based research tool not only finds relevant precedents but also analyses the precedents to flag what case laws are good to be cited before the courts with reasoning. Document review is done in half the time using the AI and predictive coding, he adds.

Anupam Shukla, partner at Pioneer Legal, says: “Most of the digitisation needs of lawyers are pretty basic. We have implemented all of that at our firm to help lawyers leverage the best e-resources to ensure smooth delivery of services to clients.”

Another big advantage of LegalTech is that it has made finding a particular document in a firm’s database much easier.  “It (document search) was a time-consuming task, tantamount to searching for a needle in a haystack. Also, with physical servers only accessible in the office, remote work was difficult. LegalTech has addressed these issues,” adds Shukla.

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First published on: 28-04-2022 at 05:45 IST