Has remote advocacy opened a new door to law? As India was lagging to support remote advocacy, it seems that time is changing. Because of Covid-19, India’s top law firms are allowing their employees to work from home. A remote job means a job that is done far away from the office, and advocacy means a representation of the client’s interest by an advocate. 

Legal Technology in India

Legal technology means using technology to provide and aid legal services. The first legal technology was electronic records. Many law firms use technology to increase their efficiency. LegalKart developed India’s first Practice Management Application and Dashboard. It helped lawyers with case updates and their contribution to various forums on their phones. 

According to a report in December 2019, over 3,500 Indian lawyers in 250 cities use LegalKart. 100% of lawyers in the USA and 95% of lawyers in the UK are using technology, while only 4% of Indian lawyers are using any technology.

Importance of legal technologies

Fast service to clients

Law firms have developed their information and communication infrastructure, which helped in providing fast services to clients. It improves billing processes. According to a report, customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable.

Time management

Lawyers can manage clients and cases with cloud-based filing systems. It helps in elegant daily office tasks. Clients can book appointments online, according to their time schedules.

Simplified control of caseloads 

Analysis is done in a few minutes, which can help in simplifying the management and control of caseloads. Lawyers can share information and maintain associations.

Reduction in errors

Artificial intelligence has handled all documentation online which helped in no error by tracking and analysing the documentation. Algorithms enabled the rectification of errors in a few seconds.

Areas of legal technologies

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

  • It is a technology that provides better speed and accuracy in law.
  • It has the power to create and draft documents such as will, online contracts, petitions.
  • It helps lawyers in carrying out legal research.
  • It provides a precedent for law used by lawyers in their present cases.
  • According to Dr. Arvind Singhatiya, “Enhanced efficiency, better time management, update clients, and impeccable financial management are the key changes lawyers are experiencing.”

Blockchain

  • Smart contracts are the code of blockchain.
  • These contracts are executed between machine to machine with no human guidance.
  • It helps in exchanging money and shares while avoiding the services of a third party.

Cloud Computing

  • It helps to gather information and data anywhere and anytime.
  • It provides efficiency and flexibility.
  • Users can adjust the services according to them.
  • It eliminates the expenses of buying hardware and software.

Performance Mapping

  • It facilitated creating reports like billing receipts and client generation.
  • It helps lawyers to map their performance and productivity.

Online Legal Service

  • E-learning helps in getting information about the legal world. It saves time and is independent of location.
  • Online legal advice helps in providing legal information, legal guidance, and online documentation. 
  • According to a report, a person can make an online will for Rs. 1999 – Rs.4000 instead of Rs. 3000 – Rs 4000 as charged by market players.
  • E-Courts

  • It improves the court processes and provides a solution for many pending cases.
  • Execution of all the work makes it transparent and speedy.
  • The E-Courts is based on the “National Policy and Action Plan for Implementation of Information and Communication Technology in the Indian Judiciary,2005.”
  • India’s first E-Court was opened at the High Court of judicature at Hyderabad on 17 July 2016.

Legal technology tools

Lawyers should know the following legal technology tools:

E-Discovery

  • It is a process by which parties share and collect electronically stored information to use as evidence in legal matters.
  • It keeps the track records of previous cases.
  • The lawyers can take the help of the outsourcing companies in their busy schedule.
  • It keeps the cases in a synchronised and chronological way.
  • Steps to use E-Discovery
    • Information governance- It helps in creating, managing, and securing electronically stored information.
    • Identification -Decide which electronically stored information is appropriate.
    • Preservation – It cannot delete electronically stored information
    • Collection – Gather information for processing and reviewing.
    • Processing – Prepare electronically stored information for attorney analysis.
    • Review – It is the most valuable stage as it differentiates between the relevant and non-relevant documents.
    • Production- Follow the court rules and generate electronically stored information.
    • Presentation – Now, the electronically stored information can be used as evidence in a hearing.

Social Media Evidence

  • A lawyer should investigate the client’s social media profile as there may be any evidence related to the case.
  • The investigation shall carry out adequately and should not avoid privacy settings. 
  • Steps to use social media evidence:
    • Capture the full social media profile comprising friends, posts, and comments.
    • Ask a professional to recognize the hiding spots.
    • Get all metadata to prove authenticity.
    • Attain an affidavit.

Virtual data rooms

  • According to TrustRadius, a virtual data room “provides a digital location to store and share proprietary information with third parties via strictly controlled digital documents protected by limiting and configurable role-based permissions and rules.”
  • It helps in uploading and downloading large documents effortlessly.
  • It offers a higher level of security than physical data rooms.
  • According to a report, the top 5 virtual data room providers in 2020 are – iDeals, EthosData, SS&C, box, and Datasite.

Chatbots

  • It helps lawyers to connect with their clients anytime.
  • Clients can directly explore the law firm using chatbots.
  • Clients can book an appointment with lawyers easily.
  • It understands the legal queries and spots which information is relevant.
  • Steps to use Chatbots:
    • While generating legal documents, all reports use a chatbot, as it provides legal help and answers the client’s questions.
    • Chatbots review and analyse the legal documents which can help lawyers utilising their time in important things.

Voice typing

  • According to a report, an average person can type 35 to 40 words per minute but can speak 100 to 130 words per minute.
  • Recordings can be shared as a professional transcript anywhere in the world.
  • This technology sends the recorded speech to the provider’s server and converts it into text.
  • In the case of a new robust system, a lawyer can use Dragon Dictate, a paid software. It allows speech to the rapid process on a person’s machine rather than in the cloud. 
  • Steps to use voice typing-
    • Hit the record button and start speaking clearly and naturally.
    • Remember to use punctuation.
    • Don’t shout or hold the microphone too close to your face.
    • The software registers words and inputs them into the document.
    • When done, stop speaking, and the file gets prepared.
    • Edit the document once done with dictating.

E-billing

  • It saves time from paper bills which are manually entered to generate reports.
  • Lawyers can obtain valuable data for advanced reporting and analytics.
  • Some e-billing software is – PCLaw, QuickBooks, and RTG.

Video Conferencing

  • As lawyers rely on face-to-face consultations and meetings, video conferencing is the best legal tool that can enable them to boost their productivity and efficiency.
  • It includes strong security measures and password protections.
  • It also accelerates legal tasks like affidavits, witness testimonies, and arraignments.
  • If the client is living in a different city or country, lawyers can use video conferencing to bridge the physical distance. 
  • Lawyers can easily collaborate with their teams by holding virtual meetings.
  • Some software of video conferencing are:
    • Skype– It includes video conferencing, sharing and transfer of files, VOIP and instant messaging. It allows 250 people in video conferencing.
    • Zoom – It enables lawyers to carry out video or audio calls from anywhere. They can easily share dial-in details to parties. It is free for up to 100 participants.

VOIP 

  • VOIP means Voice over Internet Protocol.
  • Different computer users can make official legal-related phone calls through desktop computers. 
  • Using VOIP, a lawyer can make and receive unlimited phone calls, receive messages in different formats, and conduct conference calls.

Online fax services

  • Documents are sent and received in digital form via email or smartphone.
  • It saves time and money.
  • It facilitates faxing anywhere.
  • It simplifies building and cost recovery.
  • Some internet fax services providers are:
    • E-fax – It provides access to a mobile app that enables users to send and receive faxes from a smartphone. It has secured cloud storage. It provides subscriptions starting from $16.95 per month with a $10 setup payment.
    • HelloFax – It authorizes law firms to send and receive up to 1000 pages per month before incurring extra fees. It can send and receive international faxes.
    • MyFax – It has numerous international codes that a lawyer can prefer to send international faxes to one particular area. It offers a free 30-day trial. The monthly subscription starts at $10 per month.

Google Docs

  • It is the most secure tool.
  • It allows lawyers to create various documents and work on them.
  • All the edits from all editors can be seen.
  • When a lawyer is working on a document, and at the same time another person is editing, their edits can be seen.
  • It can access documents from anywhere.

Scanning Tools

  • It improves the flexibility of digital documents.
  • Optical Character Recognition can easily convert digital scan pictures into edited files.
  • If the original document is torn out, the scanned document may lack accuracy.
  • Lawyers can use smartphones to scan documents and upload them to PDFs.
  • After scanning the documents, it can easily be shared using email or text message.
  • Tools like ScanSnap iX 1500 can be used.

Guidelines by Courts in video conferencing

  • On 6 April 2020, the Supreme Court had issued some guidelines related to video conferencing. Some guidelines are:
    • The Supreme Court and High Courts took measures to reduce the need for the physical presence within the court and secure the functioning of courts.
    • The Supreme Court and High Courts assure the functioning of the judicial system through video conferencing technologies.
    • The concerned courts shall maintain a helpline for grievances regarding video conferencing.
    • Courts shall make appropriate arrangements for people who can’t access video conferencing.
    • Do not record evidence via video conferencing.
  • On 7 April 2020, Justice Sanjeev Parkash Sharma, Rajasthan High Court, observed during a hearing of a bail plea via video conferencing, that an advocate appeared before the court wearing a vest. The judge had asked Rajasthan Court Bar Association to instruct lawyers to dress appropriately while appearing through video conferencing.
  • On 27 April 2020, Bombay High Court, while hearing a writ petition in a matrimonial dispute, allowed a father to see his children through video conferencing 3 days a week.

Indian lawyers on video conferencing:

  • According to ThePrint, on 7 April 2020, the Supreme court heard the final hearing of the Kerala-Karnataka border dispute. Advocate G. Parkash stated that they kept on waiting, but after some time they got the information that the matter was already heard. He said, ” If we were in an open court, we could’ve made submissions when the matter was taken up. Those facilities are lacking [in the video conference proceedings].”
  • CS Vaidyanathan, Senior Counsel, said,” This is the best opportunity to overhaul the system. A paradigm shift is needed for the future and not only during an emergency. Physical presence in court should be curtailed. Documentations/petitions running into hundreds and thousands of pages can be done away with. Half of the pending cases can be resolved to mediation and video conferencing.”
  • Vibha Datta Makhija, the senior advocate, said, “Hearings by way of video conferences in which the public cannot participate, in my view, are illegal hearings, except in exceptional circumstances, as in the present atmosphere of a pandemic, where adequate technology is not yet available.”
  • Siddharth Luthra, senior lawyer and criminal law expert, said, “Some mechanisms have to be in a place where documents can be uploaded for a parcel of judges, and CRPC and HC rules need to be amended so that the accused can also appear through video conferencing. Eventually, lawyers will adapt to this kind of regulated hearings and would get disciplined, thus, saving a lot of court time. As of now, lawyers argue endlessly.”
  • According to a report on 26 April 2020, the Supreme Court heard 593 matters and delivered 215 judgments via video conferencing during the lockdown period.
  • According to Hindustan Times, on 9 April 2020, Bombay High Court conducted the first public hearing of cases through Zoom. Advocate Nitin Pradhan said that exercise was helpful and necessary in the current lockdown and was a need of the hour to decongest courts.
  • KV Vishwanathan, Senior SC advocate, said, “video conference hearings have heralded in a new era for the Indian judiciary. Access to justice will acquire a new dimension. From the remote corners of the country, people will be able to access the highest court. Once institutionalised, it will reduce the cost of litigation and enhance the reach of the court.”
  • According to The Tribune, Manan Kumar Sharma, Chairman of Bar Council of India, stated that “If such practice is encouraged and allowed to continue, there is not any doubt that more than 95% of the advocates of the country will become briefless and work less and the practice of law will be confined to a limited group of lawyers and Justice delivery would be badly affected.”

How lawyers can ace in video conferencing

Examine all the Equipment

Lawyers should assure that they can observe and listen to their clients. They should resist delay. The connectivity app should be properly attached to speakers, microphones, and cameras.

Dress professionally

Legal dress codes emit respect and pride. Lawyers should dress as if they are working in court. The work area should be elegant and decent. Look out for body language. Stand up when the Judge enters and leaves video conferencing.

Robust security measures

Create new codes for every meeting so that client’s confidential information is secured. Provide passwords to clients for verification.

Provide provision for third-party app integration

It boosts to receive important legal documents. It helps with client participation during virtual meetings.

Conduct training sessions

Lawyers should be provided with training on how to handle video conferencing. It avoids unwanted barriers of the network connection.

Use built-in microphones and headphones

Lawyers should mute the video call if they are not speaking as it will encourage others to concentrate more and communicate. It assures a smooth trial of court.

Resist interruptions 

Client’s participation brings in additional information. Consequently, lawyers should wait for their turn to convey their views.

Legal Technology Challenges

Data Security

  • Technology brings a risk to data security and privacy as all personal and legal documents are stored electronically.
  • Lawyers should use software tools with end-to-end encryption and biometrics.
  • Lawyers should review their security systems from time to time.

Unnecessary disturbance

  • Technology takes away the authority of the judges to maintain decency in the courts.
  • Hearings are disturbed due to background noises.
  • Lawyers should take care of background noises and mute their voice when necessary.

No outsiders allowed

  • Technology prohibits open access to a case hearing.
  • Lawyers and clients cannot attend a hearing unless permitted.
  • Young lawyers suffer as they are not able to examine matters.

Accountability

  • There is a lack of responsibility for remote advocacy.
  • Lawyers should keep a proper track of work.

Network Speed

  • It is vital to have adequate internet data and good network speed in remote advocacy.
  • Lawyers should test their network and speed online.