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LexTalk World Talk Show with Dr. Josephine Bhavani Rajendra, Head of Legal, Regulatory........



Dr. Josephine Bhavani Rajendra is the Head of Legal, Regulatory & Compliance at Ambani Consultancy & Trading. Her diverse experience in practice includes a broad range of civil, criminal, commercial, maritime, restructuring, and mergers & acquisitions matters. She possesses extensive experience in corporate governance, compliance, law department management and securities regulations.


Currently, her key responsibilities include developing risk mitigation strategies, providing proactive, in-depth legal business-focused advice, and implementing initiatives to set and reinforce a culture of integrity, quality, and ethical behaviour. She is acknowledged by peers, subordinates, and senior leadership for her tenacity and the ability to gracefully manage the dynamics of a rapidly transforming environment. She holds a Doctorate degree in Law specializing in the field of Artificial Intelligence and the legal profession, and has been the recipient of several awards for her research, including the “Best Paper Award” and “Best Research Award.”


Interview:


Host: In your view, what are the biggest challenges facing law firms or organizations today?


Josephine: Our lives have undergone significant transformations as a result of the development of cutting-edge technologies. Rapid advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI) are having a substantial impact on both the legal profession and a number of sectors of the law. Despite the fact there are no superhuman robots on the horizon, the most noticeable shift that the development of technology has brought is the widespread availability of information. We are increasingly more connected now than we were a decade ago due to advancements in technology. To put it simply, from the moment we open our eyes, we have grown accustomed to looking at our smartphones to view emails, news, theweather and much more. Therefore, when information is readily available, people’s understanding of a topic improves. They will grow more demanding as they gain expertise in the subject. Thus, society has grown much more demanding in many fields because of the widespread improvement brought about by the spread and expansion of knowledge. Clients in the legal field, for instance, have higher expectations than in the past. “Demanding more for less”it is a very client-centric market today, as stated by Professor Richard Susskind. Hence, in my view, the biggest challenges facing law firms today, to name a few, are as follows:


Competency in the Law

Lawyers should be monitored to ensure they do not lose their skills throughout the course of their careers, including how to spot potential trouble spots and implement corrective measures swiftly. However, this is still up for dispute.The focus is essentially on the training of current legal professionals as well as new hires. I believe that law schools and higher learning institutions should play a strong role in preparing law graduates with relevant skills for the 21st Century workforce.


Demands and Expectations of a Digital Society

There has been a dramatic change in the last ten to twenty years in the way we engage with the world through the Internet. In the same way that consumers are accustomed to making purchases online, maintaining constant lines of communication, and managing their daily lives with the aid of applications, legal practices must be prepared to do the same.Hence, being able to adapt and embrace emerging innovative solutions is the key to continued relevance in an increasingly digital society.


Sustaining a Hybrid-Working Law Firm

The transition to hybrid working is going to take significant rethinking, coordination and reconfiguration to meet the new needs of the legal workforce. Technology, alongside a well-thought-out implementation, plays a significant role in optimizing a hybrid-working environment.Those that partner with reliable providers of legal software will have what they need to do online business with current and potential clients.


Ensuring and Sustaining a Safe Online Working Environment

Cybercriminals frequently aim their attacks at legal service organizations. When it comes to the problems facing today’s top law firm professionals, this is one of the most pressing issues. Thus,implementing a well-planned security breach system in legal firms is crucial and should not be overlooked.However,this may increase the operation costs and thus oftenviewed as a challenge for small-sized firms.


Internal Inefficiency and Organization

The day-to-day operations of many smaller legal firms have been cited as a major source of decreased productivity. Improperly streamlined business operations are a common cause of inefficiency, which may have a negative impact on both profits and competitiveness.


Ensuring Legal Transparency

The use of legal technology enables greater transparency and efficiency in dispute settlement. However, this may pose a challenge to the billing process, which is based on billable hours. The recent advancements in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) challenge the traditional concept of human expertise. The question now arises as to whether lawyers should be paid on an hourly basis if AI speeds up the process in a fraction of the time taken.


Lack of Awareness and Reactive Mindset

Conservatism and the attitude of “if it’s not broken, why fix it” may impede successful tech adoption. Law firms need to invest their time in learning what is available in the market and how to implement these innovative solutions effectively. The culture of the firm or organization may also impede successful tech adoption, which in the long term, is not a viable business solution.


To summarize, measures that enhance innovation and creative thinking should be employed by law firms. While upholding the basic objectives of the firm, the policies should always be client-focused. In order to maximize their resource usage and provide a steady stream of fresh ideas, they also need to utilize technological advancements to improve the performance and delivery of legal services. Legal practitioners and law firms require strategic planning in order to manage operations, capacity, and efficiency in today’s environment of rapid change.


Host: The pandemic saw some courts begin moving towards more remote proceedings and availability. Is this sustainable, and a possible way to increase access to justice, in your opinion?


Josephine: No doubt, both the medical and legal sectors have been disrupted by the COVID-19 health crisis. Worldwide, courts have had to act swiftly in response to the challenges posed by the pandemic and the societal constraints it has prompted. It has been proposed that online forms of conflict resolution, often known as Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) should ideally be adopted as it may promote resolution while easing social distance. Even in the midst of the crisis, the public andlegal profession have had easier access to the judicial system in several jurisdictions thanks to the swift transition from traditional court proceedings to an online form. However, given the magnitude of the recent developments, questions have been raised concerning the ability of courts to adopt modern technology, as well as issues related to the impact of a new online model of justice, particularly in regard to the hurdles for more vulnerable segments of society. In addition, concerns have been raised about whether the outcomes produced by disruptive technologies used in some courts truly reflect the idea of ‘justice’ as it has traditionally been understood (Sourdin, 2020).


I believe,as literature concedes, that while it is favourable to bevigilant of any tech-related challenges that might impede justice goals, courts should welcome innovative technology that aids court services in order to improve access to justice. The question of sustainability infers that the legal profession and the judiciary should be trained to comprehend how best to employ and maximize the use of such technological solutions. As it was strikingly observed, the global health crisis has increased the necessity of judges having access to navigate justice or resources in order to carry out their duties in the modern digital era. Post-pandemic technology is no longer seen as an additional fit but rather as a necessity for the legal profession and the judiciary (Sourdin, 2021).


Yes, I do believe that technology should be utilized to improve access to justice and modernize the court system, but it is equally important to be aware of the limitations these tech solutions offer and that it may not be “the one sizethat fits all” model in every situation. While ODR and the use of technology may reduce the backlog of cases and increase efficiency, it is not an all-encompassing solution.Further, although the COVID-19 pandemic has somewhat been the catalyst in accelerating the adoption of technology in the legal industry, much thought should also be given to the need for awareness and training on how to best utilize these solutions.


Host: How would you rate the current legal system’s drive towards encouraging access to justice? Is there tangible movement in closing the justice gap?


Josephine: According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) 2016 report, access to justice is hampered by a number of economic, structural, and institutional reasons, such as the time, expense, and difficulty of the legal procedure, as well as the challenges of accessing the courthouse. An important point to note is that many individuals, especially thosein the disadvantaged and marginalized groups, do not see their issues as legal ones, nor do they understand the potential legal solutions for such difficulties. The public’s decisions about whether or not to seek legal advice or take any action to settle legal problems are influenced by a number of variables, including cost (also opportunity cost) and faith in the court system.


It is fairly safe to state that although there have been some commendable attempts to narrow the access to justice gap, there is still a lack of awareness, especially concerning the underprivileged and marginalized parts of society.


Over the course of the next several decades, new technological breakthroughs could cause a revolution in legal services. There is a growing trend among many countries to offer their judicial services online. For example, the Rechtwijzer 2.0 in the Netherlands enables cases to be opened and judged entirely online. The United Kingdom and Australia are also getting on board with the online technology trend (OECD, 2016).


Private online dispute resolution systems, such as the one employed by eBay (which handles 60 million claims each year), make it easier to seek effective solutions to small legal claims (Rule, 2016). Automated routes, in which customers receive straightforward information after responding to a series of common questions, have also been developed as a result of technological advancements in order to reduce expenses and eliminate unnecessary instances. In spite of the widespread usage of 4G phones in countries with low and intermediate incomes, there is a significant under-development of mobile apps in this field, whereas nations with high incomes are moving quickly ahead.


Hence, there is an increase in the digital divide, which impedes access to justice. Thus, it has been proposed that Governments have a thorough awareness of their population’s legal needs and experiences in obtaining justice in order to devise solutions to local justice issues. Focusing on outcomes which essentially translates to people’s capacity to seek recourse for their legal requirements in a fair, cost-effective, timely, and effective manner, is thus necessary to ensure equal access to justice for all. The terms “People Focused Justice System” and ‘Legal Empowerment” plays a strong role (OECD, 2016).


To summarize, although there is greater adoption of technology in the court systems around the world to increase access to justice, there are challenges, especially in reference to the ability of legal personnel to adopt, the existence of sufficient internet support and awareness, which needs to be overcome to ensure successful implementation of innovative solutions.


Host: In the era of legal technology, what are the most commonly used tools for you?


Josephine: The pandemic had a range of repercussions on the legal industry; however, one of the effects that have had the most significant and long-lasting impact is the increased adoption of legal technology by law firms of all sizes and in all areas of practice. It is safe to state that prior to the health crisis, technology was seen as something the legal profession could do without, but they have since come to realize the critical necessity for innovation that is resistant to lockdowns and restrictive movement orders.


A significant number of legal firms have begun to deploy modern technology in order to improve their management of administrative responsibilities as well as some parts of client representation. Listed below are some of the more commonly or widely used technological solutions deployed by legal firms today.


Online File Storage

Online file storage options for lawyers are essential, whether working remotely or just for simple and quick access to documentsto enable communication from anywhere. In the 2020 Legal Trends Report, 79% of lawyers said that they rely on cloud computing to store data for their firms (ABA’s Legal Technology Survey Report, 2020).


One of the most widely used document storage programmes worldwide, Dropbox, is probably the first choice when it comes to online file storage. In fact, Dropbox was the most widely used cloud service, with 67% of survey participants reporting using it, according to the 2020 ABA’s Legal Technology Survey Report.


Document Management System (DMS)

Although dealing with paperwork is a necessary component of practising law, it does not have to be as time-consuming or unpleasant as it formerly was. A secure cloud-based environment may be virtually maintained with the right platform, allowing for easy access, management, and organization of documents and data across the organization. It serves as a central repository to store and manage documents.


With effective legal document management, all legal papers are maintained in a safe location for simple retrieval. It is relatively easy to collaborate on works-in-progress documents. Likewise, revisions are accurately monitored. Nothing is misplaced, lost, or difficult to locate. When employees want access to a document for any reason, it is readily accessible.Thus, there are fewer problems and bottlenecks in the system.


Tech Solutions for Timekeeping and Billing

For a legal business to be profitable, time tracking, and billing must be accurate. However, spending a lot of time manually keeping track of time and handling invoices reduces a firm’s productivity. Tech solutions which have the functionality for tracking and paying legal time and expenditure are viable options to increase efficiency.


e-Discovery Tools

Electronic discovery, or eDiscovery, now accounts for the vast bulk of discovery. Law firms may save significant time and money by using these software tools to swiftly identify important issues and separate them from those that are less relevant by scanning thousands of documents and files in a matter of minutes.Hence, increasing productivity and enabling faster insight.


Resources for Legal Analysis

It is practically impossible to expect a law practice to succeed without thorough legal research. Modern technology makes it easy to find any piece of information, be it a law library’s worth of cases or a specific ruling, with a simple Google search. Hence, the time and effort invested into researching the law will be greatly reduced.


For instance, Fastcase houses one of the largest collections of legal materials available anywhere on the web. Case law, legislation, rules, constitutions, and more are just some of the legal resources that may be accessed remotely with the help of Fastcase, which interacts with Clio. Thus, cost-effective legal research is possible with innovative solutions.


Practice Management or Administration Solutions

In 2021, law firms, especially those of a smaller size, found legal practice management software to be an indispensable tool.Practice management software essentially serves as a client and case database, which includes everything from time tracking, billing and accounting. According to the American Bar Association’s (ABA) 2020 Legal Technology Survey Report, using practice management software is on the rise among solo practitioners (from 1% in 2015 to 29% in 2020).Interestingly, among legal practices with 2-9 lawyers, 45% are solo practitioners, which is a 2% increase over the previous year.


Cloud-based software was adopted by many legal practicespost-pandemic, and it appears that the trend will continue. A staggering 96% of lawyers polled for the 2020 Legal Trends Report said they intended to continue using practice management software when the pandemic subsides (ABA’s 2020 Legal Technology Survey Report).


Figure 1: Some Types of AI-Driven Tech Are Used Heavily

Source: Bloomberg Law 2020


Figure 1 shows the most frequently deployed technology in legal firms or organizations. As displayed, legal research tools are the most heavily used at 82%.



Figure 2: Technology Adoption by Key Legal Technology Area

Source: Global Legal Department Benchmarking Report, 2019


Figure 2 illustrates that technology isnow more widely adopted by legal firms to enable better workflow operation.


Host: Time is money in any profession, and in legal, it is most of all. How do you ensure to make the best of your time as a lawyer?


Josephine: The legal profession is a competitive field, more so in an increasingly advancing digital society. In order to make the best of one’s limited busy schedule, it is suggested that the skills listed below aretaken into consideration:


Attention to Detail and Meticulousness

The success of a lawyer depends on his or her ability to accurately represent their clients’ interests. One misplaced word may alter the entire meaning of a contract, and misspelt or grammatically incorrect emails, letters, or papers give clients a negative image andcan cause financial loss.


Communication

To succeed as a lawyer, you need to have excellent communication skills, both oral and written. A legal professional must be able to develop connections and instill trust in their clients; thus, it is crucial to possess excellent listening skills.


To successfully argue a case in court, negotiate favourable settlements, and communicate complicated concepts to clients, a lawyer must have strong oral communication skills. This includes the ability to communicate effectively by using language that is easy to understand and has a logical structure. There is an emphasis on public speaking in the position of a lawyer. Likewise, having strong writing skills is essential for composing letters and legal papers. Technical and legal jargon will need to be communicated accurately and concisely.


Organization, Prioritization and Collaboration

It is safe to say that a lawyer’s life is a constant balancing act between researching legal issues, creating legal papers and contracts, maintaining case files, seeing clients, appearing in court, and networking with other legal professionals.Skills in organization are crucial for a successful legal professional because of the need to set priorities and maintain concentration despite several conflicting demands. Likewise, there should be an emphasis on a collaborative focused environment in legal practice.


Creative Thinking in Addressing Problems

A career in law might not seem like a good fit for someone with a creative streak, but that is not necessarily the case. To succeed in the legal field, whichever field one selects, he or she needs to be able to think creatively and often swiftly.


Established members of the legal profession will relate that the right move isnot usually the one that seems apparent or simple. It will often be necessary to use your ingenuity and ability to solve problems on a regular basis to outwit your opponents and get a favourable outcome for your client.


In essence, it is extremely beneficial for lawyers in the 21st century and beyond to have a working knowledge of computer literacy, as they spend a significant portion of their time conducting research. Creating a culture that encourages collaboration provides an organization with the opportunity to provide expert litigation support. Lawyers that are computer literate and tech-savvy provide additional benefits to their clients, including easy accessibility for clients and a simple and quick manner to retrieve papers. These additional benefits enable progress in the legal profession. In order to further their careers and become more competitive, lawyers will benefit from developing their technical expertise.


Equally, both hard and soft talents are essential to a successful career. Integrity, a desire to serve others, sensitivity, humility, empathy, confidence, persistence, simplicity, loyalty, discipline, and dependability are all traits that may be developed via the practice of soft skills. A deeper relationship with their clients may be achieved when lawyers have these talents because they allow them to feel more human and emphatic. The “human measure” is equally pivotal in legal practice.


Society places the legal profession on a higher pedestal than almost any other profession, with the exception of those in the medical field. People seek legal counsel for themselves and their loved ones with the expectation that their lawyer would be able to assist them in winning a case that seems hopeless. Thus, lawyers should continuously engage in lifelong learning to further advance their skills towards the betterment of performance and delivery of legal services. Although lawyers are often cited as reluctant to engage in active collaboration as they develop a strong sense of ownership over their individual files, it is an essential skill in a digital era as it exhibits the ability of a legal professional to integrate skills across the firm and outside it to manage a particular issue effectively.

 

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