In today’s dynamic times, the legal fraternity is adapting to change rapidly. Be it courtrooms, law firms, companies or legal publishing houses, digital awareness and adjustment is on everyone’s agenda. Previously infamous for its disdain towards accepting change, the legal fraternity is no longer an insular, self-contained department. It now functions as a data-driven business unit.
Digital transformation in the legal context means digitizing every aspect of the legal experience both for the lawyer and the client, including service delivery, workflow, processes, team collaboration and client engagement. In the last two decades, the legal-tech industry has revolutionized legal research with the availability of judgments, orders from the remotest courts/tribunals along with journals and articles from across the world at the click of a single button.
The COVID-19 pandemic tested the digital infrastructure of the courts in India. The shift to the virtual medium seemed onerous with incidents of internet connection disruptions, lawyers turning up in inappropriate clothing, inability of the clerks to access files sent by the lawyers, etc. However, it turned into a smooth functioning system as the parties involved became accustomed to its functioning and adapted technology remarkably in their everyday operations. Virtualization of proceedings helped overcome major challenges in justice delivery, including distance, delays and cost, an example of seamless tech adoption accelerated by the pandemic.
Omnipresence of Tech in Legal Spheres
With online legal resources at the disposal of the legal fraternity, the laborious task of sifting through hundreds of pages for infinite hours is obsolete.
A simple search on a legal search engine (such as Manupatra) fetches thousands of results including, bare provisions, case laws, journal articles, delegated legislation, court rules, filing guidelines, even court fees, etc. Not only has this reduced the time and effort in conduct research, it has also created a community of individuals who enjoy the simplified process and consider pursuing the same as a profession.
The current bloom of legal-tech startups have assured that legal research need not be tedious and monotonous – the cycle of trying combinations of the same research proposition is obsolete replaced by features providing quick and near accurate results.
Furthermore, with the increased penetration of technology in legal operations, law firms and offices have benefitted the most from the digital transformation:
- Work-from-home has prompted a realization that working remotely is wallet-friendly and technologically feasible.
- With the help of real-time communication apps, legal experts can communicate both with the clients and co-workers. This enables faster and efficient communication and collaboration.
In this vein, Manupatra’s unified platform for litigation tracking – CaseWatch is a game-changer:
- It tracks the next case hearing date, sets case alerts, and enables lawyers to generate a personal cause list.
- It provides an easy-to-use interface to run litigation record check on pending and decided cases, of individual and/or company.
- Download Reports and personalized cause lists to take care of all your litigation woes.
The shift from the physical courts to the virtual medium also gave rise to up-skilling of lawyers. Even though the courts have now opened, virtualization showed that the bandwidth to carry out the entire litigation process through the digital medium, is something that the Indian courts can smoothly transition to which is especially tough for a profession plagued by the “let things be done, the way they have always been done...” syndrome. This also opened up bigger avenues of adoption of technology in the operations of the legal industry.
Law practice management is the latest by-product of the law and technology merger. myKase by Manupatra enables lawyers and law firms to help their geographically dispersed teams to function smoothly. It also helps lawyers carry out the below functions:
- Manage different areas of practice with a single solution. At home or in the court, the cloud based platform allows access to client details, matter details and all the files at any time at one place.
- Is easy-to-use and highly secured to ensure confidential details are not leaked or tampered with.
- Great client experience with minimal client interaction, video meetings, and hearings; an efficient, secure and collaborative working platform.
- Gives instant authorized access from any device, to assign and manage tasks, monitor workflow, documents, dates, notifications.
- Teams collaborate and communicate efficiently across locations, offices, and time zones to manage projects, matters, and transactions seamlessly.
- Enhanced efficiency, better time management, updated clients, low duplicity, and redundancy are the key changes that the case management software promises.
Law-based mobile apps and software add convenience to the processes in the industry.
- Tech solutions help ordinary users connect with the leading legal professionals without stepping out of their homes.
- It provides lawyers an opportunity to maintain communication with other attorneys and clients, update them in real-time, perform research work efficiently, and more.
- Lawyers can work together on important matters with productive tools available and they no longer have to sit next to each other in order to draft a petition or discuss the important aspects of a case.
The Jury’s still out
Despite the advancements and growth in legal-tech, during the COVID-19 induced pandemic, the Supreme Court in April 2020, was able to list 357 matters for hearing, which amounts to only 2.48 per cent of the number of cases listed before the Supreme Court in April 2019 (14381 cases). 1 Thus, a lot more needs to be done to ensure that systems do not come to a grinding halt in the face of such a pandemic or any other event which has the capability to bring about such an effect.
A pre-condition for all technology related innovations, is widespread access to digital infrastructure. This can be achieved through increase in physical access to infrastructure, reducing digital divide through targeted policies and encouraging innovation of accessible technology solutions. As is a trend with regards to adaptation to change, the primary fear remains that any form of technological advancement will lead to job losses, rather than creation. However, legal technology or legal advancements have only augmented the efficiency of lawyers. More importantly, the technological disruption in the other domains has increased efficiency and facilitated lawyers immensely. It’s safe to say that such disruptions are curiously welcomed.
1Shreya Tripathy and Tarika Jain, ‘Caseload During COVID-19 (April 2020): A Look at the Numbers’ (Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, 2020) accessed 23 September 2020.