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Wednesday December 01, 2021

Embracing lawtech

January 05, 2019

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is going to impact the legal sector. A rapid advance in artificial intelligence (AI) is changing the mode and structure of legal services.

International lawyers and law firms recognise the importance of technology. However, Pakistan’s legal sector hasn’t shown much interest in adapting to lawtech. Customers are increasingly using digital technology. Therefore, the legal profession needs to upgrade in order to satisfy the digital needs of customers.

Olive Communications, a managed cloud comms provider in the UK, recently conducted research on 500 law firms and 1,000 clients in the UK. It found that 34 percent of clients would like to receive digital services through video conferencing and instant messaging (IM) from their lawyers. Around 66 percent interviewees stated that they have not been provided such services.

Realising this gap between the digital needs of clients and the provision of such services by lawyers, the UK government has launched digital reforms that include the automated filing of financial claims for disputes of up to $10,000, a digital divorce application service, and an online system for appealing tax bills.

The research carried out by Olive Communications further revealed that “seven out of 10 consumers would choose a ‘law-bot’– a customer-facing, automated online system – to handle their legal affairs over a human lawyer because it’s cheaper, faster and simpler”. The study concluded that installing digital communication systems has significant benefits for law firms.

Digitalisation has obvious benefits, including greater opportunity, swiftness, convenience, and output. Collaborative cloud technology could help clients and law firms become paperless while improving efficiency and the security of information. The electronic filing of court proceedings could make the justice system more accessible and efficient. Lawyers can use lawtech, ie legal analytics, to conduct quick legal research and examine voluminous documents.

Richard Baldwin, a professor of international economics, states that: “Globalisation 4.0 is going to hit the service sector. Hundreds of millions of service-sector and professional workers in advanced economies will be exposed to the challenges and opportunities of globalisation for the first time. Worryingly…AI-driven automation will displace many workers”.

Such studies show that the Fourth Industrial Revolution will impact the service sector, including the legal profession. Clients would prefer communication with speed, efficiency, and security through automated responses or multiple channel web-based communication systems to wasting time visiting a lawyer’s office or waiting for legal advice to come through the post or email. Therefore, Pakistan’s legal sector has to be upgraded in terms of technology to sustain in a globally-changing legal landscape.

At the same time, legal professionals need to be equipped to handle cybersecurity threats through awareness and the promulgation of cybersecurity regulations in Pakistan. Lawyers and law firms hold valuable personal and commercial information about their clients. For example, the nature of information is very sensitive in the merger and acquisition of corporate entities. Threats for a cyber attack in such cases are real.

While recognising these threats, the International Bar Association Presidential Task Force on Cybersecurity has conducted a study and issued a report in 2018 that provides robust cybersecurity guidelines for lawyers.

These guidelines keep the system software updated; implement endpoint protection; use reliable internet connections; secure web browsing and email; implement data-keeping and loss-recovery capacity; encrypt data and devices; authorise remote deletion; make certain that the cloud computing provider is secure; supervise access control; and create strong network segmentation.

They are also required to apply audit logs; secure mobile devices; secure devices that store data; implement strong username and password management with multi-factor authentication; spot sensitive data and implement protection protocols; and conduct regular cybersecurity risk assessment and system testing.

In addition, these guidelines will implement a cybersecurity policy aligned with identified risks and minimum standards; ensure vendor and third-party service provider risk management; prepare business continuity plans; establish and test a comprehensive incident-response plan; assess legal and regulatory obligations; conduct employee training and testing; consider cyber liability insurance; and participate in cybersecurity information-sharing with other organisations.

Pakistan’s legal fraternity may benefit from these guidelines till cybersecurity regulations that focus on protecting the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of sensitive data that belongs to law firms and clients are introduced. The adaptation of lawtech cannot be suspended due to the absence of adequate regulations. Innovation and regulation must go side-by-side.

Due to the backlog of cases in our courts, the new generation of lawyers and judges need to enhance the quality, reach, and impact of their services by utilising lawtech. The electronic filing of court documents and digitalised modes of communication would meet the rising digital demands of the legal sector’s customers.

The founder of World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab, says: “…we should understand that the Fourth Industrial Revolution will affect not just our industries but also society and the lives of people everywhere. Businesses [including the legal sector] need to make sure society benefits from technological innovations”. Let’s hope the legal fraternity welcomes 2019 on this front as well.

The writer is a lawyer.

Email: zranjahlaw@gmail.com