In a survey conducted by Gurugram-based BML Munjal University (School of Law) in July 2020, it was found that about 42% of lawyers believed that in the next 3 to 5 years as much as 20% of regular, day-to-day legal works could be performed with technologies such as artificial intelligence. The survey also found that about 94% of law practitioners favoured research and analytics as to the most desirable skills in young lawyers.
Earlier this year, Chief Justice of India SA Bobde, in no uncertain terms, underlined that the Indian judiciary must equip itself with incorporating artificial intelligence in its system, especially in dealing with document management and cases of repetitive nature. With more industries and professional sectors embracing AI and data analytics, the legal industry, albeit in a limited way, is no exception.
AI & Data Analytics In Law
According to the 2020 report of the National Judicial Data Grid, over the last decade, 3.7 million cases were pending across various courts in India, including high courts, district and taluka courts. The snail’s pace at which the judiciary proceedings happen in the country, and the copious amounts of paperwork associated with it sure is the cause behind much inconvenience to the parties involved. Even though the legal sector in India is one of the largest, is highly under-digitalised. Given its very conventional and traditional approach, the field of law in India seems to be very sceptical to adopting new technologies in its workings. Other reasons for hostility towards incorporating technology such as AI include high cost, lack of proper systems and data, privacy and security issues, and ambiguity in the law governing such technologies.
The good news, however, is that young lawyers and practitioners are increasingly warming up the idea of incorporating technology, albeit in areas that are clerical and repetitive in nature.
Given the efficiency and sorting speed of machines, several AI-based software is being used for reviewing documents to establish its relevance to a given case. AI-assistant ROSS Intelligence, an online legal research tool built upon IBM’s Watson, has been helping lawyers in mining information from tonnes of legal paperwork through its cognitive computing and natural language processing capabilities. Currently, ROSS Intelligence is being used across several law firms around the world, including some prominent names such as USA-based Baker Hostetler, Salazar Jackson, and K&L Gates.
To help in realising greater output from the available data to gain a better perspective by analysing patterns of the decision of judges in similar cases, law practitioners are now turning to legal analytics. These strategic insights from legal analytics are believed to give law firms a competitive advantage and yield profits by incorporating machine learning and natural language processing.
Artificial intelligence tools can also support law professionals in conducting due diligence in finding and understanding background information by conducting a fact check on the facts and figures. This speeds up the process while also eliminating the possibility of manual inaccuracies.
Indian companies in the legal-tech space
Gurugram-based LegalKart provides an AI-based app that connects clients with the best lawyers available in their vicinity. The clients also get real-time updates, information sharing and assistance. Reportedly India’s first practice management system for lawyers, LegalKart promises to revolutionise the way law professionals manage their practice. LegalKart’s clientele includes big names such as Ola and ZoomCars.
Bangalore-based SpotDraft is an AI-based contract management platform that helps customers draft, review, manage and sign contracts. This AI platform can also analyse legal documents and suggest users on clauses that can be negotiated on. The platform uses AI and ML for text analysis, which is conventionally used in academic work. Founded in 2017, SpotDraft has processed over 6,000,000 contracts as per the company website.
An NCR-based startup CaseMine is using AI to make legal research and analysis more in-depth and comprehensive as opposed to a regular search. The CaseIQ software is a virtual research assistant provided by the company that obtains results from legal documents. The software helps in obtaining relevant search results without the need to reformulate case facts into searchable legal propositions. Essentially a case law analytics system, CaseMine “enhances traditional legal research to move beyond mere keywords and retrieve relevant results using entire passages and briefs.”
Named after Harry Potter character Professor Albus Dumbledor’s memory reviewer, Mumbai-based startup Pensieve provides an AI-system that understands legal documents. Its flagship product Mitra.ai can understand the context of a search query and is able to provide suitable recommendations. As opposed to conventional search engines, this platform uses machine learning models running on thousands of documents to provide the most relevant information. The company also claims to help prepare defensible arguments.
Sensing the need of the hour, the Indian judiciary is slowly taking to technology in regular proceedings, virtual courts and hearings being the point in case. It is only time when AI and analytics will be actively included in the legal sector. Notably, a group of researchers from IIT Kharagpur, by using machine learning techniques, developed a method to automate legal document reading.
The proposition that such technology can replace actual judges and lawyers is too far-fetched as critical cases still require to be approached with a certain sense of judgement, conventional wisdom, and humanity which machines currently are unable to provide.
While the legal profession is not immediately threatened by the advent of AI, the legal sector still awaits a major technological overhaul to smoothen the system. Notably, a Supreme Court committee “National Policy and Action Plan for Implementation of Information and Communication Technology in the Indian Judiciary” was formulated in 2005 for greater accessibility. However, the progress has been slow due to resistance from the stakeholders.
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I am a journalist with a postgraduate degree in computer network engineering. When not reading or writing, one can find me doodling away to my heart’s content.