Automation helps focus on strategic advisory services: Vishal Parekh

Vishal Parekh, Country head - India, Thomson Reuters
Vishal Parekh, country head-India, Thomson Reuters, the information services major, shares with Sudipto Dey his take on how the use of automation technology and artificial intelligence (AI) will impact the Indian legal profession. Thomson Reuters has come out with a white paper titled 'Legal 2025: The Future of the Indian Legal Sector’ that captures the changes the legal profession will undergo with a rise in the use of technology. Edited excerpts from an interview:

How is the Indian legal profession taking to automation and AI?

Since the global financial crisis, there has been an increasing pressure on law firms worldwide to drive higher efficiencies. Adoption of automation in general and AI, in particular, is one of the ways law firms are improving productivity. While early automation targeted rote work, today’s legal industry is using tools offered by legal technology solution providers to auto-generate standard contracts according to variable parameters, analyse stored agreements to monitor terms like renewal dates and price escalation clauses and generate alerts and actions to minimise risks. Improving efficiency around these tasks frees up the bandwidth of the legal professional to focus more on strategic advisory services.

Could you give a sense of the job profiles that are getting impacted most?

Automation requires legal organisations to induct specialised developers, engineers, data scientists and IT experts to run the systems, refine operations or client solutions and mitigate risks. However, doing this is not core to the role of a law firm or in-house counsel. That is why we are seeing an increased reliance on partners who understand the legal workflow to provide technology solutions to solve these issues. There is an increase in roles and responsibilities of partners and associates to double up as a chief technology officer and technology advisor. 

In short, today’s lawyer is a much more tech-savvy professional who uses technology embedded into their daily routine.

Is the growing importance of in-house legal counsel causing any shift in the workload between law firms and their clients?

As per a recent IDEX-Thomson Reuters General Counsel (GC) survey, over 74 per cent GCs said that over half their department’s time was now spent interacting with the business. The in-house legal departments are working in sync with the business and are also facing new responsibilities like data security, privacy compliance, internal policy formulation and liaison. The GCs are able to deliver timely and relevant legal advice to the business through the use of technology and liaison with the law firms. 

We are witnessing  how increasingly companies are turning to younger, less expensive, flexible boutique firms, over marquee names, to partner with. The law firms are supporting in-house legal departments on high-value, high-stakes, high-volume, multi-jurisdictional work. This includes litigation, megers and acquisitions, specialist regulatory work, competition investigations and compliance policy formulation. 

Moreover, the GCs are turning to alternative legal service providers like accounting firms, legal process outsourcing organisations, e-discovery and document review service providers and managed legal service providers for standardised, high-volume, process-oriented work like litigation document review or foreign jurisdiction compliance. This helps them to lower costs and improve efficiencies.

How has GST impacted the demand for taxation and regulatory compliance solutions?

As organisations usher in greater transparency, take responsibility for managing risks, create a competitive edge for their businesses and ensure better and efficient compliance, GST, India’s biggest tax reform, has made tax management and practice a vital component of business strategy. While tax technology is addressing the determination of tax, compliance, reporting and analysis, it is also making it possible to answer the mandates of the global economy with changing tax data flow, analytics and date requirements. 

Progressive tax and finance departments are taking an integrated approach using people, technology and processes to deliver taxation and compliance solutions and implementation services to gain better control over their tax exposure.