RISING DEMAND FOR LEGAL TECH STARTUPS-IS IT THE NEW NORMAL?

Author: Sakshi Sachan, KLE Society’s Law College, Bangalore

Editor: Naman Joshi, Delhi University


The Technology For The Law:

Legal technology is,essentially, the using technology to provide legal services and support to the legal industry. Legal Tech companies are generally startups which are founded with the intention to amend the traditional legal field and its scope.


The legal technology has been in use for quite some time in the market but its application had been otherwise than what it is today. Since 2011, the application and utilization of the legal technology has deviated from the traditional understanding, to promote legal practitioners, law firms, individual lawyers and other legal institutions.


Over the years, the legal field has seen extraordinary changes. In the sense that, prior to the legal technology of the 21st century, the people were expected to viist a lawyer at every stage of a dispute. But since this development, it has become increasingly easy for the individuals to get resolution to their issues.

Law: from legal tool to tech tool

Innovations in the field of technology have been dramatic and drastic, and every field of life has upgraded itself in order to accommodate the technology in their lives. It is very important for the law practitioners to do the same in order to ensure that law does not get left behind and become ancient. Since law is the very backbone of the nation, it is pertinent that law is as present and visible to us as technology is. And this is the reason why the legal tech has come up and is here to stay.


The goal of legal tech start ups is to amplify or expand the entrepreneurial spirit along with innovation and providing support to law. There is an ever increasing demand for the lawyers as there are more and more issues that come up everyday because of how fast paced the world has become.


It is not just for the sake of any normal individual, the legal tech or mobile lawyer is a helping hand for the lawyers themselves. It is important for lawyers to be competent and in this era it appears that it is also important to be competent in technology[1]. The duty to be competent in technology will eventually become ingrained in the Professional Code for the Lawyers and hence it is only obvious that we adapt and adopt the technology.

Different Legal Techs Work Differently

The legal techs basically work to provide legal support to the law practitioners. However, the legal techs secondarily may work differently, for example[2]:

A. End to end platform that aims at replacing the traditional court system by resolving disputes within 45 days. These legal tech startups provide an online platform for dispute resolution where the consenting parties can raise their disputes, lay down their objectives and seek dispute resolution via arbitrator or mediator.


B. Practise management platforms are ones where the parties can seek legal advice and even talk to experts, with or without payment of some fees depending upon the matter at hand. These also help the parties in filing their suits themselves and easily.


C. Mobile applications are also offered by some legal tech start ups to enable the parties to get easy resolution to their disputes and thereby reduce the burden to the lawyers and the courts. Here the lawyers can provide legal guidance outside of their work space and the parties/ consumers can get access to justice without hindering their daily work.


D. The mainstream legal tech provides services like consulting, legal mentoring and accounting. These provide to offer a broad tech support including document management and virtual data rooms.


E. AI powered litigation which provides for litigation, research and document management systems for the lawyers based on AI. This helps the lawyers in strategizing and making better research for their respective cases depending upon the cases they deal with.


F. AI contracts platforms encourage creating, managing and analyzing the contracts.

Why is legal tech expected?

The legal field has been seen as a conservative and traditional one for far too long. Legal technology has noted that the customer experience and customer friendliness at a majority of law firms has barely changed in the past 50 years[3]. The main reason for this lagging behind in technology is essentially the fact that most disbursements are passed directly to the client and hence the cost cutting incentive here is lower than most other professions. Another important reason includes that this profession does not welcome technology very much and this is because even a minor technological error can cause significant damage to the clients, either financially or otherwise. And it is no news that technological errors are more common than not, and since law is about dealing with humans and human life, technology is not preferred substantially.

Landmark changes to welcome legal tech:

An important major development took place in August 2012, wherein lawyers were asked to become more and more technologically competent by the American Bar Association in order to accommodate the technological development and the clients. It also amended the Model Rules of Professional Conduct requiring the lawyers to stay updated of the merits and demerits of associated technology. In 2019, the Federation of Law Societies of Canada also adopted a similar amendment to their Model Code of Professional Conduct, requiring the lawyers to be as technologically competent as they are professionally.

Such massive amendments to the Lawyers code of Professional Conduct shows that the exponential amounts of documents that are expected to be reviewed by the lawyers for litigation has in fact led to the adoption of technology, wherein machine language and artificial intelligence are being incorporated and adopted by law firms.

Legal tech finds useful in the following areas:

· Contract Drafting and its Management

· Matters and Case Management

· Accounting of the value of the case

· Billing for the client

· Document automation for presentation in the court

· Document storage to be used in the cases

· Legal research used by the lawyers and trainees

· Practice management (Law practice management)

Tools offered by the legal tech include:

· marketplace connecting clients with lawyers

· Tools for Client Relationship Management (CRM)

· Providing tools for consumers and businesses to complete legal matters by themselves, obviating the need for a lawyer mostly via Artificial Intelligence

· Contract and Case analytics

· Use of legal digital signature, which helps verify the digital identity of each signer, maintains the chain of custody for the documents and can provide audit trails

· Automation of legal writing or other substantive aspects of legal practice

· Platforms for succession planning i.e. Will writing, via online applications

· Providing tools to assist with immigration document preparation in lieu of hiring a lawyer.

Conclusion:

A big number of startups have come up in the market to provide legal tech support, bridging the gap between the lawyers and the client. Since these legal tech startups are aimed at lowering the cost of litigation and the cost of seeking legal counsel, they are here to say and are most welcome by the public at large, including the lawyers. This is so because it saves a lot of time and money for the clients, and it provides opportunities to the lawyers like never before.

[1] https://techcrunch.com/2014/12/06/legal-tech-startups-have-a-short-history-and-a-bright-future/ [2]https://contractbook.com/legaltechweekly/legal-tech-around-the-world-india#:~:text=The%20Indian%20legal%20system%20is,better%2C%20more%20clear%20agreements%20initially [3] https://www.lawtechnologytoday.org/2014/12/smart-startups/

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