Future Of Legal - A Transformation Journey

Archana Sasan, VP - Legal Counsel, Dell

Archana Sasan, VP - Legal Counsel, DellTransformational change is all around us. Technology innovation is transforming our lives and enhancing our ability to interact with each other, while also providing us with data analytics to derive meaningful insights to make better, more informed decisions. Technology innovation makes it imperative for the lawyers / legal departments to also embark on an ambitious transformation journey – the “Future of Legal”.

In the overall legal ambit, we are seeing digitization being implemented in different ways. The Courts in India formerly gave relevance to documentary evidence; with the era of digitalization the law has also accommodated electronic evidence as an acceptable form of evidence. In fact there is an increase in the admissibility of electronic evidence in court proceedings. The Supreme Court in one of its recent judgments has held that the requirement of a certificate to make an electronic evidence admissible is not mandatory wherever interest of justice so requires.

In the modern age with all information being just a click away, there has been a paradigm shift in the day to day functioning of judicial activities such as filing of petitions, availability of judgments and orders taking place in online mode, etc. Another interesting example where smart innovation and digitization has not left law enforcement untouched is serving of summons through WhatsApp. This methodology is being used especially in the banking sector to deal with voluminous cases, majority of them being cheque bounce cases. The blue WhatsApp ticks are considered to be an indication that documents have been served and further impose a responsibility on the recipient to act accordingly.

“Despite the accelerated pace of change, the technological disruption occurring in legal is a process, not a switch. There is a growing opportunity for legal service providers to leverage tech-enabled solutions to drive efficiency and manage risk better”

In both the above cases, we see that the existing statutes and laws are being interpreted in a manner favorable to adoption of technology.

Given the pace of change in the corporate world the in-house legal teams can succeed longer term if they are able to leverage technology innovation with their creativity and insights to enhance their performance capability. There are various basic yet effective introductions and innovations which can help improve the functioning of legal services that are delivered such as standardizing processes, eliminate low risk repetitive tasks and others by maximizing the use of technology such as robotics process automation (RPA), machine learning and ultimately artificial intelligence (AI), or by leveraging vendors in partnership with our internal capabilities. Any one of these advances will provide the in-house team an opportunity to free up time to support clients in more strategic areas and focus on higher-value work that delivers a significant impact to themselves and the business.

Today, companies are also actively leveraging AI powered software in contract review and management space. AI-powered software improves the efficiency of document analysis for legal use and machines can review documents and flag them as relevant to a particular case. AI can help analyze contracts in bulk as well as individual contracts. AI powered results also help utilize contract data to provide business insights, enable decision making and manage operational and legal risk.

Another facet of such upcoming contract generation tools includes its ability to draft the standard clauses for the numerous routine agreements being executed. For instance, the standard clauses as per the company’s stance can be saved on the smart tool to be used as per requirement and basis type of contract being drafted. While on one hand, this makes the contract drafting process less tedious, on the other hand, the tool acts as a repository for all standard clauses.

Another vital aspect to be aware of is that technology innovation can work well for the legal department, especially in-house, if they are aware of the technology they need. It is crucial that a diagnosis exercise is first undertaken. This exercise will help to understand the challenges that both the legal and commercial teams face. If one of the issues that frustrate your legal team concerns collaboration, you may want to implement document management software. This software can enable you to store, manage and track electronic documents. If your legal team experiences a lack of direction on projects, you may want to implement software that will assist with workflow management. A matter management system enables you to keep all the information that is relevant to a matter in one place. This will help the team keep track of who is working on what. Also, it will facilitate handovers or on-boarding of new members on a matter.

Generally, commercial teams do not have access to legal databases and, instead, keep asking your legal teams for guidance and advice. In this case, expert systems can be beneficial. These systems can replicate the thinking of human experts in a particular field (in this case, lawyers). Your in-house legal team will first need to build a process and then digitize it into an expert system. This system will adopt the same approaches to address any problems raised by the commercial team that the human lawyers would take.

On a concluding note, it is apt to state that, the breakthrough technologies leveraging AI and expert systems are bringing significant efficiency gains and making all of this possible for legal teams. Despite the accelerated pace of change, the technological disruption occurring in legal is a process, not a switch. There is a growing opportunity for legal service providers to leverage techenabled solutions to drive efficiency and manage risk better.