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Legaltech – the India perspective

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Though India is in the forefront of technology and the outsourcing space, its name fails to figure prominently in the legal tech arena. The legal industry in India is tight-knit and small in comparison to  other countries. The USA, UK, Australia, Europe and now even Singapore are hotbeds for innovation in legal tech. This is despite the fact that some of the prominent legal tech vendors have at least one centre in India, where, by contrast, legal innovation is currently being treated as a singular phenomenon. Here, law firms and legal departments are still debating whether their brand gets diluted by managing voluminous work in a process style rather than whether one should or should not engage in it.

The Indian legal education system does not have legal tech in its curriculum, while working lawyers pick up the idea that legal technology is all about replacing them. Sadly, they fail to realise that the real boon with adopting tech is that it eliminates monotony by concentrating on core functions rather than voluminous process work. It would allow them a work-life balance which currently so eludes lawyers.

The problems within the Indian legal industry are not unique. Like its counterparts in other countries, they too are grappling with the challenges of dealing with managing costs, price pressure, managing knowledge, managing talent, managing the paper work that the India legal scenario demands, and  managing a culture which is averse to any change.

This industry is not completely alienated from technology though. The current government is pushing for automation in compliance, tax and real estate registrations. There is talk of using blockchain, machine learning and artificial intelligence to increase efficiency.

Indian legal tech vendors are still in their nascent stage. Most are struggling for adequate funding and quite a few are unable to ride out the initial two to three years of gestation period. Having reviewed quite a few range of products created in India, I feel there is a disconnect in understanding the  requirements of the client. Product designers fail to understand the wants of the client. This has led to most law firms in India and the top one hundred companies sourcing their legal tech from international vendors who are more client centric. This is despite the fact that the cost of a basic Indian law firm management software is lower than similar software developed internationally. Most of the software products implemented in India are mainly within areas of document management, CRM, HRM, contract management and time recording systems. Currently there seems to be  no inclination for using legal tech for process transformation, change management, legal process efficiency management and legal analytics.

Legal technology and innovation are not magic wands that make problems go away. They are enablers that help iron out issues one faces in the work arena. However, before you take that path, it is better to do a detailed diligence of the tech players in the space, understand what your needs really are and what your expectations are from the technology. Sometimes the answer may be just a tweak in the process or utilising existing technology to its full capacity. For me, my biggest lesson as a legal technology consultant in India has been that technology is not the only answer. To quote Colin S.Levy, “The real innovation comes from changing people”.

Author : Suchorita Mookerjee is an attorney and a legal technologist expert.  She has almost two decades of experience helping legal process outsourcing units, legal departments and law firms address challenges with e-discovery,  compliance, legal process transformation, contracts management implementation, due diligence management and information governance.

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