COVID-19 has disrupted the functionary of legal framework and the judiciary.
The COVID 19 pandemic has not spared any sector from its claws. Be it Industry or Education, every sector has become a prey of COVID 19. Hence the disruption is caused to the legal sector as well, where the doors of the court “the Guardian of Law” have remained closed in most of the cases. In an order issued on March 13th, 2020, the Supreme Court stated that the courts shall remain open only for urgent matters.
The COVID 19 pandemic has an uncanny similarity with the Bubonic plague of Bombay in 1896 and Spanish Flu in 1917, which has ravaged the economy and halted the judicial framework. However, the only difference between the situation now and then is with the availability of Technology. While in the past the judiciary did not have an option to advance itself, now the legal framework is at the path of transformation.
Technology To Replace Fresh-out-Graduates in Entry Level
A survey report titled “Decoding the Next-Gen Legal Professional”, by BML Munjal University School of Law and Legal Search and Consulting Firm Vahura, cited the transformational change happening in the legal framework with technology. The survey was conducted in April and May 2020; in cities like Mumbai, The key findings of the survey are:
- 90% of the respondents who are practicing lawyers forecasts a surge in digitization and technology innovations.
- The 81% respondents of the survey observed that the ability to understand and anticipate client needs would be the most sought-after skill among lawyers in the next 3-5 years followed by tech proficiency.
- 71% of respondents highlighted commercial awareness as one of the essential skills in the next 3-5 years.
- Almost 60% of respondents concluded that law schools in India are not updated as per the changing situation.
- 42% of respondents indicated that over 20% of their daily work would be taken by technology such as AI, in the next 3-5 years.
- 36% of the respondents observed the practice of law becoming more global with the increasing importance of international education and qualification.
- 42% of respondents felt that there are enough law schools to the market demand for lawyers.
- 30% of respondents believe the need for top-quality law schools.
- The report states that the human roles at the entry-level will be replaced with automating repetitive and standardized work and augmented reviewing documents.
- With increased automation of legal work, the responsibility to train the next generation of lawyers will shift from law firms to law schools.
- Law schools where legal tech tools and developing skills are incorporated will be the most sought after.
- The survey has also shortlisted the skills that would be on high demand amongst young lawyers:
Research and analytics-94%
Inattention detail and a sharp eye for accuracy-93%
Ability to work hard- 71%
Openness to Learn- 72%
Oral and communication Skills- 88%
The President of BML Munjal University of Law in an interview with the Economic Times noted, “Future teams, both law firms as well as in-house legal departments will have to be proficient in understanding and adapting technology with a host of tech and soft skills to remain competitive.”
Moving From Court Rooms to Video Conferences
The COVID 19 pandemic has affected the normal functioning of the courts as well. With Supreme Court’s order restricting hearing in courts until necessary, most of the courts are now switching to video conferencing for further legal procedures.
The report suggests that more than 18000 cases have been heard in Delhi high court from March with the help of video conferencing.
Almost 77% of pending cases in India are accounted to be of less than a year, as per the data retrieved from the National Judicial Data Grid. It is further reported that there has been a comparative decrease in the number of cases that are filed in the courts.
Growth of Legal Tech Start-Ups
Despite the uncertainty, many legal tech start-ups are gaining momentum in the current situation. Most of these legal tech startups are providing services to their client through on-demand legal advice and real-time tele-legal service for issues from divorce cases to property disputes.
These startups are mostly using disruptive technologies such as data analytics, and AI to carry out their operations.