In this article, Bhuvana pursuing Diploma in Entrepreneurship Administration and Business Laws from NUJS, Kolkata discusses how technology is changing the practice of law.
Technology is a process or manner with which a specialized knowledge is applied in any particular area to achieve optimum results within the possible minimal time frame. It emerged in the course of global evolution of mankind and has its own boon and bane to the universe.
Technology is at every footstep of the mankind from the stone-age era till this ultra-modern era and will go in furtherance.
How Law was practiced in prior centuries
Prior to the “type-writer” era, law practice was quite a traditional, manual, meticulous, laborious act. As the typing machine and telephone came in, it eased the manual scripting and mode of communication to some extent.
The emergence of electronic type-writers, copiers, fax machines and the desktop computers with certain applications paved faster way to the legal practice.
Mobile phones, Laptop computers and internet highway advanced the practice to next level which enabled a global link in terms of records, research materials and large voluminous data access. A paradigm shift came in disguise of Smartphones and the global legal platform is at its excellent edge of cloud computing era.
Emergence of Technology and its impact in Legal field – Global Picture
Artificial intelligence and e-discovery are the sizzling trend of modern era which is utilized optimum across the globe in all possible spheres of business and industries. Within a span of a decade from 2004 to 2014 the global scenario was reshaped and revamped with technology.
Technology came in rescue to mobilize the desk oriented, pen-pushing working style of law practice. Legal practitioners need not be glued to libraries, record offices, telephones or copiers to work on their cases. With the help of advanced computing, storage systems, internet, search engine tools, smartphones, tablets, kindles, there emerged a migration from conventional desktop working mechanism to mobile operations.
Prior to the techie era, the simplest research work for a case may be time consuming which involved manual inquiries in person, library visits, record references, calls, meetings and consumed several days to achieve the required result. The situation in the court halls were more intricate, time-consuming lengthy process. This is one amongst the major setbacks in the litigating system and a branch of root cause for piling pendency of cases.
As the technology evolved, the legal field across the countries quickly switched and adopted it into their practices to link worldwide to stay state-of-art in currency with modern times and remain tuned to the latest information. The work which took laborious days together to accomplish in earlier era is completed within hours now in the modern world.
Law Practice Vs Clients
Change is an inevitable, impermeable, permanent organism in the world. Emergence of electronic discoveries and artificial intelligence advanced the practice of law in all countries to keep pace with the growing demands and piling litigations. Courts started relying on the e-data, search engines, storage devices, recording systems to minimize the labor, time, efforts to administer and adjudicate.
Law firms and client relationship improvised and expanded the role functions of a normal law firm to multi-dimensional, dynamic phase. The e-data availability enables a law firm to analyze the requirement of its clients in far better way to meet up the client’s expectations and gives a superior competitive edge in the field.
Mass departure from manual recording system to electronic data management, case histories, and reports, utilization of video conferencing, evidence analysis, legal search and analyses of global scenario for a given situation, genetic determinations, and psycho-analytical techniques has advanced not only the process of practicing law but also the products of law.
In the emerging trend, the Legal Processing units connect the globe by addressing the issues of various countries by de-centralized operative system. Advanced mechanisms are experimented and adopted for the ‘replaceable’ and ‘non-replaceable’ law practices such as online solutions providing legal templates, forms, drafting on various situations.
A forecast from American Bar publication reports as follows
“The key to our future success as legal service providers lies in our ability to identify the specific lawyering areas in which we can be replaced and those in which we cannot be replaced. The most prosperous law practices in 2020 will be those that are able to successfully adjust their business models to use artificial intelligence–type tools while at the same time promoting and delivering the part of the legal service value proposition that the machines are not able to provide.
Consider for a moment the success of non-lawyer legal service providers such as Rocket Lawyer and LegalZoom. Both of these online services provide the ability for legal service consumers to create their own legal documents and forms. Both services proclaim that they do not provide legal representation, are not law firms, and are not a substitute for an attorney or law firm. Yet they essentially provide the same deliverable that many of us do: contracts, wills, business formation documents, bankruptcy filings, and the list go on. They provide consumers with the ability to create documents that are intended to accomplish a specific legal purpose.”
According to this report, an influx of non-law service providers entering the legal market, some of which will be exclusively consumer focused, some lawyer focused, and others will sell their wares to both consumers and lawyers.
Technology in Indian Courts
In 1990, the National Informatics Centre of Ministry of Information Technology, under Courts Informatics Division initiated the computerization of applications in the Supreme Court and the High Courts.
The listing of business information system (LOBIS) provides schedule of the cases to be heard by the courts on the following day which eliminated the manual process of cause list generation. The fundamental skeletal back-office operation of a court came to a total re-vamp by adopting this system.
This streamlined the chronological order of filing dates, automatic generation of cause lists, grouping and posting of cases with similar law points, speedy recall of dismissed cases for reviews, instantaneous statistical reports, computerized filing of records.
Computerization of filing counters in the Apex court eased the lengthy queues of advocates, removed the difficulties by instant defect detection, speedy rectification, calculation of court fee, time limitation, etc.
The digital advancement in Indian judiciary enabled the litigants to get their queries answered online about their pending cases. A complete text of all reported judgment of Supreme Court cases from 1950 till date is available online. An interactive voice response system (IVRS) is provided for the litigants and advocates finding their case status.
In pursuance to the proposal forwarded by the then Chief Justice of India in the year 2004 to the Union Government, an E-Committee was constituted to formulate a National Policy on computerizing Indian Judiciary and for advice in technology, communication and management related requirements. Accordingly, a report was submitted and the purpose of this project was to help the judicial administration of the courts to streamline their daily activities, reduce the pendency of cases, provide transparency of information to the litigants, and provide access to legal and judicial databases to the judges. This project was scheduled to execute in 3 phases to have an ultimate output of having e-courts in Indian judiciary to expedite the litigation system eliminating the lengthy pendency of cases.
Technology brings in a paperless environment. Filing FIRs online, examining witnesses, criminals, recording evidences etc by video-conferencing saves time, travel, costs, risk of handling hard-core offenders and enables speedy disposal of cases. The judges are in better position to analyze and determine the cases with readily available precedents and legal prepositions online.
With the dynamic technological advancement across the globe, the Indian judicial scenario insofar as the e-courts are concerned, traversing towards a silver-line which is subjected to the question on the strength of well-balanced IT support and back up mechanism preventing the operations from hacking terminals worldwide.
Pros and Cons
As the technology advances, there evolves a refined system in place with speedy disposal of cases, client consultations and legal analyses. A paperless system contributes to save trees. In a way also enables employment.
Nevertheless, there remains a question as to the replaceable element with regard the legal practitioners in certain aspects and a threat as to the cyber hacking of web portals.
Technology has not only changed the practice of law, but also the basic legal education system. Learning law is no more a classroom process exclusively. Though the element of practical approach, court hall exercises, clinical methods are involved, technology overtook the educating methods to the legal applications, online learning, web seminars, paperless moot court exercises etc. The field of law inevitably pulled into the fast pace of emerging trends practiced worldwide and compelled to move forward with the technology to meet the ends of justice with optimum speed. Amidst the technology being a boon as well as a bane, it has uncontrollably become a part and parcel of system in practice and therefore, it is ideal to adopt the recommended aspects to equip in accordance with the demands to meet up the social, economical and legal expectations to remain and maintain the core competency to obtain the essentially required outcome.