New technologies are out and maybe lawyers are way behind on the technology brigade. Or maybe not. Bar & Bench takes a quick look at the journey from typewriters to sophisticated gadgetry.
To the lay man, it may seem that there are enough and more technology available in the market, to enable us to live like the Jetsons, but the average Indian lawyer is still making do with the very basic of technology that is available to them.
For example, in Bangalore, the home of the IT revolution, typing pools in court campuses still have no shortage of work. The sight of seeing a lawyer using a computer is considered ’hi-tech’, and with a large number of legal practitioners still using dial up internet connection, Indian lawyers have a lot of catching up to do with their US and UK counterparts.
A survey carried out by legal services provider, Rainmaker, returned obvious results. A whopping 91 percent of the subjects believed that firms ought to focus on technology to avoid losing relevance and that partners must be held responsible for implementing such technology.
With clients and foreign law firms using technologies extensively, Indian lawyers have no alternative. Technology in firms started with MS DOS computers in the early 90’s, SCC Online’s compact disks reporting judgments of the Supreme Court revolutionized the use of technology, which, after hesitation came to be accepted even by courts. Then with the internet revolution, came Manupatra in 2001.
Widely regarded as the flagship for the technology movement in the Indian legal market, Manupatra was the first to launch an affordable comprehensive online legal database enabling lawyers to refer judgments across different practice groups and courts and is still used extensively. Manupatra and Amazon recently launched a wireless reading device, Kindle. Now one hopes that the sight of junior associates lugging books around court halls weighing more than half their body weight will be a thing of the past. “Today, we have a service where you just click the name of the judge, and it will list all the judgements given by him and there is precedent list that comes down which lists all the other judgements that have either used the case as a precedent or have been over ruled,” says Deepak Kapoor, Manupatra’s Chief Executive Officer.
Madhusudan Rao, a consultant at Serviceberry Technologies, breaking technology into a hardware and software component, he explained to Bar & Bench, “The hardware aspect of the business is as important as the software. There are some unimaginable things that what technology can do. Large Law firms now have their dedicated data centres in India and have complete wired mechanism to use their data efficiently, interact with their clients through video conference and also build a fool proof security layer to protect the confidential information.”
If the current trend of firms and even in some cases individual practitioners embracing cutting-edge technology is anything to go by, firms might just cease using the trusty excel sheets to keep a track of their billing . On the top of the wishlist is the Thomson Reuters product, Elite 3E, a web based business platform that offers financial and management features to all kinds of professional services firms.
Nishit Desai Associates and Amarchand Mangaldas have adopted technology fairly efficiently with both using Elite 3E and Autonomy Interwoven iManage, a software for document and knowledge management. The Chief Technology Officer at NDA, Milind Mundarkar, speaking to Bar & Bench said that the firm was a judicious user of available technology. “We use Elite 3E for all our billing purposes and also use the Autonomy Interwoven iManage for document and knowledge management.” NDA also stresses on the continuing education of all its lawyers and has its own auditorium equipped with a whole range of features which enables the associates of the firm to attend seminars and also has auto recording facilities where any talks or sessions conducted in the auditorium is automatically recorded on CDs and is then added to their very own online CD library.
Mundarkar admits that there are concerns expressed by clients regarding the security of the confidential information To address security concerns, NDA has installed a three-tier security system and also has a dedicated team of IT officers at every branch to take care of any IT issue. Amarchand has an 8 member IT team dedicated to taking care of their technology needs.
While it is a welcome change to see Indian lawyers opening up to the idea of introducing technology in their daily routine, there is surely a long road ahead.