Given how India's public sector is showing a growing interest in artificial intelligence, can legal tech startups keep up and help transform India's judiciary system? Though India has made rapid progress in terms of technology, companies and researchers are yet to utilise the full potential of AI. In fact, a PwC report emphasises that how instead of waiting for technology to reach a level where regulatory intervention becomes necessary, India could be a frontrunner by establishing a legal infrastructure in advance. A slew of Indian legal tech startups are building NLP-based applications and introducing next-gen legal research platforms that help law firms go beyond simple, keyword-based research, thereby making it less time-consuming. Many legal startups are fast rising in AI research capabilities, some of who have their own AI research labs.
"Ultimately lawyers are like programmers, only difference being, they code/write in legal language, which in most cases is English," says Shashank Bijapur, co-founder of AI driven legaltech startup SpotDraft and a former Wall Street Lawyer. It is this belief which led Shashank, a Harvard Law School graduate, from the echelons of Wall Street to finding a startup in the legaltech space which would be capable of using AI to read through contracts, organise, manage and finally, analyse them. But we are jumping the gun here. Roll back a few years to Shashank's Wall Street days where he saw day in and day out what lawyers did. I have seen upfront what lawyers do and how they work.
Very few know that the legal sector was one of the first to adopt Artificial Intelligence, with some corporate legal firms using it in some form since 2005. Even as the judiciary takes baby steps to digitise court work, lawyers across the country are using software like'Casemine', 'Mitra', 'Legitquest', 'Mike' and'Kira' for basic research, the sort of work which otherwise would have been handled by an entry-level legal associate. This analysis and retrieval of data otherwise takes an immense amount of time. Huzefa Tavawalla, who heads International Commercial Law Practice at Nishith Desai Associates, allays the fears that jobs are at stake. "That can never happen because one of the things that a machine lacks is a conscience.
According to a report by Tata Consultancy Services, 68% of Indian companies use artificial intelligence (AI) for IT functions, but 70% believe AI's greatest impact will be in functions outside of IT such as marketing, customer service, finance and HR by 2020. Also, the majority of companies see AI as transformative and consider it crucial to remaining competitive in future. The primary goal of all AI-enabled innovation is to minimise human labour and augment human capability to the maximum extent possible.