The law and the legal profession have always had an aura of prophetic orientation, and this is called into question. It is a practice where even the age-old colonial processes of wigs and capes continue. With this kind of traditional image, the entanglement of technology was a far-fetched idea.
But, change is the only constant. The technology needed to prove its merits on the legal side, and the pandemic has helped it provide a lot of evidence.
Before approaching the subject directly, we must recognize the reason for the reluctance to adopt the technology. The legal profession involves data and the confidentiality of it extremely important. And with the ever-expanding cybercrime scene, the reluctance can be easy to understand.
Another aspect that has so far (probably) hindered inclusion is also that the personal touch, discussions and court hearings could be done over the internet was quite unthinkable, until recently. We have all seen lawyer and jury learn e-court sessions equally.
They had the same learning curve as everyone else, but theirs could have been more difficult given that the mix of legal and technology was rare.
Does this mean that the books that become the centerpiece of a law firm will soon be just a decorative item?
Quite unlikely. In India, legal technology has barely started. Using AI and ML, along with other technologically advanced tools to meet the needs of all legal stakeholders, still takes time.
What we can see so far is that legal technology is an evolving industry, but the gap between the number of layers required and the number of practicing lawyers (around 13 lakh) needs to be bridged, and we have already started to look for a future where, with financial inclusion, we are able to establish judicial inclusion also in our administrative and judicial representation of the nation.
The need for greater inclusion of technology would also help reduce the roughly three million outstanding cases to be processed. This is imperative because we, as a nation, cannot afford to use the idiomatic phrase “justice delayed is justice denied” as we aim to become a global name to be reckoned with.
There is another perspective that makes technology important to the legal profession. Currently, the sources available to law students and practitioners are largely in the form of archives and manually recorded documents. While we know that the evolution of legal practices must go hand in hand with national and social developments.
Students and lawyers alike should have access to the vast collection of case studies. It will be easier for them to access libraries and with the challenges and novelty that come with cases, they will have better solutions and approaches. It was purely academic and practical.
The challenge we have identified is the lack of evidence. It is time for electronic evidence to be substantiated and consolidated. If we consider the financial and credit sector alone as a case study, it will be easier to understand the opinion expressed.
This sector has an important component, the legal notice. If a borrower receives legal advice and the recipient has changed their address, phone number, etc., it may not be easy to locate the person. In addition, apart from the signed receipt for postal services, there may not be sufficient evidence to know that the notice has been issued.
This leads to a stumbling block in the procedure. If these notices could be sent digitally (along with the physical version), it might be easier for a tech team with the courts or businesses to know that the notices have been received. This could constitute substantial electronic evidence.
The fear of being replaced by technology is also irrelevant. The legal profession has a great human angle to it.
Much like teaching, technology has made learning easier, but has not replaced the role of a teacher, likewise, a lawyer has a touch of empathy and a human connection to the client. It is irreplaceable.
Just as chatbots help banks resolve generic queries quickly, legal technology makes help faster. For example, by using technology, lawyers and courts can increase their reach with less empowered demographic groups and sections.
Technology could be of vital help in keeping track of the proceedings of each case and preventing schedules from derailing. Lawyers are more accessible to their clients and discussions could be more fluid, without either party having to take time for physical meetings, which is not cost effective and time.
Electronic courts also contribute to cost and time efficiency, as well as online dispute resolution. Mutual dispute resolution can be helpful in reducing the court burden, as long-standing cases can be brought online and the process can be expedited.
There are many other reasons that support technology and the legal union, but the realization that we needed the pandemic to embrace reality and accept it as widely as it is now is what we should hate. in unison.
We could have woken up to adoption even before the lockdowns and social distancing pushing us to accept the change. We may have more evidence in the future, given that the pandemic appears far from over. Therefore, the post-pandemic reality remains to be determined.
But, with the Law Commission of India supporting the integration of technology into legal practice, and we can only hope that as security and privacy measures are refined, the aforementioned union helps us see a social transformation where seekers of justice are not afraid of time-consuming and (often) harassing procedures and ultimately justice wins.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)