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Out With The Old: Behind The Mumbai Law Firm Trying To Disrupt Legaltech In India

Out With The Old: Behind The Mumbai Law Firm Trying To Disrupt Legaltech In India

Law firm, Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas has setup a startup incubator

Firm already uses AI tools for legal research and precedence research

3-4 startups to be selected for the 6-month long programme

With more than 30 Mn cases still pending & 1.2 Mn lawyers practicing, the legal system in India is long due for an overhaul. Moreover, despite the startup ecosystem having 39K startups (according to Inc42 DataLabs), there are only handful who are working to disrupt the legaltech segment and bring in the much needed revolution.

And amongst these innovative startups, there’s one which aims to infuse technological advancements in the form of AI based solutions, to help overcome the critical inefficiencies our legal system is bogged down by.

Mumbai-based law firm Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas (CAM) recently launched an AI-focussed legal tech incubator called ‘Prarambh’. It aims to shortlist a few startups for their six-month incubation programme in order to help them develop solutions which can be used to streamline legal tasks.

From implementing a tool named Kiera at their ‘innovation lab’ to training the tool to keep improving the output, CAM is also focusing internally on using AI to help them with legal research and precedence research.

Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas: Not A Neophyte To AI And Tech

Inc42 spoke with Komal Gupta who heads artificial intelligence & innovation at CAM, part of an initiative called ‘Innovation Lab’ which was launched in 2017 by the legal firm to identify areas where processes can be simplified and where-in technology can be used to enhance productivity. Internally, the company has also deployed artificial intelligence based solutions in its day-to-day practice.

Gupta reminisced, one of her first assignments at CAM was to ensure the utilisation of AI-based tool Keira to accomplish the due-diligence work, a tool the firm had subscribed to. “My job was to get it up and  running. AI is based on how intelligently I will train the tool and if I train it with garbage that’s what the end result will be,” she added.

With passing years, the number of use cases for AI have also increased at CAM. Other cases where the firm has used AI include ‘Ediscovery’ where legal documents can be digitally indexed, tagged and categorised to ensure that they are easily searchable and increase the accuracy of the searches by at least three to four times.

The firm also uses AI tools for legal research and precedence research (an advanced tool that learns from the searches and displays earlier cases which have been treated as negative by the court).

Prarambh: An Equity-Free Incubator Programme For Startups

The incubator aims to select three to four startups for a six-month incubation programme in order to help them develop cutting edge technology solutions which can be used for performing several legal tasks.

Some of the use cases the legal firm is aiming to address are:

  • dispute resolution
  • transaction efficiencies
  • law firm operations
  • legal research
  • compliance
  • contract management

The incubator will provide startups with space at its New Delhi office and more importantly help secure intellectual capital by providing access to lawyers, clients and mentors (networking avenues). However, the program does not take any equity stake or provide financial capital to the startups.

Justin North, the cofounder of North America-based consulting firm on technology and innovation, Janders Dean, has also joined the board of Prarambh Mentors. According to the company, the two have been working with CAM in India on various innovative initiatives – which are not limited just to technology.

“Although the concept of an incubator and a law firm mentoring ideas from the outside is not new from a global perspective, and there are a small number of firms in other regions that have successfully done this; however CAM is at the forefront of this push in India,” he added.

Applications for selection to Prarambh will be open from April 8th to April 30th this year, and the names of shortlisted startups will be announced on 31st May with the interview and pitch happening in June 2019. The final list will be announced in the 1st week of July.

Legal Tech Startups: Scope Of Growth In India

In October 2018, the Supreme Court approved live streaming of its proceedings. The court said this move might bring “transparency and accountability” to the judicial process.

This clearly indicates that with use of technology, numerous transformations can be brought in to the legal domain of India. With the pace of innovation in Natural Language Processing increasing, AI has become a plausible and potentially disruptive force in the legal services space globally.

India with a vast amount of data and existing inefficiencies in the legal system presents itself as a great opportunity to churn out innovation. Apart from AI and NLP, blockchain is another technology which is finding a use case in creation of smart contracts.

Just last week, Gurugram-based legal tech startup, SpotDraft, raised  $1.5 Mn (approx INR 11 Cr.) in a Pre-Series A funding round led by Binny Bansal-backed 021 Capital. At present, few legal tech startups who operate in India include — NearLaw, Pensieve, Practice League and CaseMine.

Is This Enough?

As North suggests, the legal system in India largely remains untouched by technological innovations from the lawyers’ point of view, and also with respect to others who work on cases that always come with a pile of documents.

“What also complicates matters is the fact that startups who are exploring legal tech solutions are far removed from regular interactions with lawyers and the legal community due to lack of access and thus they take their best guess on what utility their solutions will provide and many times it’s a mismatch,” he added.

While ‘Prarambh’ can be the first step to bridge this gap, it certainly is not the only solution. Apart from startups and investors, the Indian courts as well as the legal firms of India should  put an end to the age-old manual processes and switch to the new age technologies. The legal tech solutions created in India, which is a country with many complexities and also has a diversity of cases; will definitely have global use cases and help Indian legaltech startups develop products for countries across the world.