The Stage : RSG Grow India Summit
I was privileged to be invited to speak on Augmented Lawyers at one of the most premier events in the legal fraternity. Most of the Managing Partners and leadership teams of the Top 50 law firms attended the RSG Grow India Summit.
Our firm, Anand and Anand did exceptionally well to move up 4 spots into the Top 10 and was also recognized among top firms for “Developing Legal Minds” and “Defending Corporate India”, in addition to being shortlisted for the “Firm of the Decade”.
Our advances in development and implementation of technology, especially Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) and Natural Language Processing (NLP) based tools sparked the special invite to speak at the event. This made me the only professional, not being a lawyer, to be speaking at any of the panel discussions during the day.
The Panel : Augmented Lawyers
The panel discussion on Augmented Lawyers was moderated by Yasmin Lambert of RSG Consulting. Pravin Anand, Bijoya Roy of Flipkart and Sandeep Kapoor of Algo Legal joined us on the panel. The event itself was conducted under the Chatham House Rules, which implies that one can share the discussion after the event, but without attribution to the person.
As one can imagine, this made the discussions even more candid and interesting.
It is not the case that the state of technology and its adoption require too much of candor to be forced upon the participants. The historical rate of adoption of legal tech, especially by law firms, is abysmally low. This story is well documented, not just in India, but also globally. However, this is changing rapidly, albeit in pockets.
I have divided my reading of the legal technology landscape and use of IT by the legal fraternity into three parts – Reality, Legality and Eventuality. So, let us look at the possibility of the Augmented Lawyer through each of these lenses.
Augmented Lawyers – Reality
The legal fraternity has the dubious distinction of being one of the slowest to adopt technology. This is the popular narrative and the exposure bias leads to reinforcement of this narrative. In other words, no one believes that the widely believed truth should be challenged.
However, in the real world, reality is only equal to perceived reality. It will take a lot of momentum and energy to displace the perception about reality that has been reinforced over such a long period of time.
I have been continuing my journey without regard to the perceptions of external commentators and unwanted opinions.
These efforts have borne fruit and have also been recognized, commended and awarded for innovation, locally and globally.
However, it is now that the popular perceptions are beginning to change. Acknowledgement of the strides that we are taking in implementing modern technologies such as AI, ML and NLP as world-leading are evidence of the changing world order.
Augmented Lawyers – Legality
However, there is one reality that has not changed, except in isolated pockets globally. I am referring to the constraints imposed by the structure of law firms i.e. their legality.
The partnership structure and the lack of an investment mindset (especially into technology) is a major impediment to technology based innovations in the legal ecosystem.
There are several ways to overcome these constraints. One is to simply circumvent the constraints by sharpening the focus on ROI (return on investment). There are several methods of achieving this e.g. doing pilots before rolling out and scaling up.
The second genre of solutions involves creating new vehicles or collaborative partnerships. These can help introduce bleeding edge technology without bleeding financially.
Finally, one can also look at alternate structures and investment vehicles, but this is subject to regulatory constraints. Only a handful of countries allow law firms to raise capital and get listed on stock exchanges.
Augmented Lawyers – Eventuality
It remains to be seen which genre of solutions will be explored by the fraternity going forward.
However, few things are certainly clear. The pace of change is crazy and it is very difficult to predict the future. However, irrespective of these uncertainties, the future is surely going to be exciting. The technology and intelligence stacks are here to stay. The hype may lead to temporary imbalance between expectation and reality, but the direction is amply clear.
Lawyers, as also knowledge professionals across all domains, will need to augment their capabilities using multi-disciplinary teams and technology.
The Conclusion or The Beginning?
The future direction appears to be clear, but most firms haven’t yet given it a serious thought. So, is this not really the conclusion but the beginning?
The battle lines are drawn and the scales are tilted in favour of those who can capitalize on the opportunities. Either one can seize the moment or cease to exist. It is either the beginning or the end.
Thankfully, the choice is in one’s own hands, at least until now!