We want to transform India's legal market with help of tech: Cyril Shroff

Cyril Shroff, Managing Partner, CAM
Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas (CAM), one of India’s leading full-service law firms, is launching the country’s first legal technology incubator — Prarambh — for start-ups in the sector. Cyril Shroff, managing partner of CAM, speaks with Debasis Mohapatra about the incubator and why there is a need for the legal industry to adopt best-of-breed technologies. Edited excerpts:

What is the trigger for launching Prarambh?

There are both internal and external triggers for this. As a firm, it is in our DNA to try new things and being innovative. However, with Prarambh, we are taking the first leap in finding the best ways to serve our clients and transform the Indian legal market. Of course, there are examples globally, especially in the United Kingdom, where some of the leading law firms run such technology incubators.

As a leading law firm, how is CAM keeping itself abreast with the latest technologies?

We use new-age technologies like artificial intelligence (AI)/machine learning (ML) for due diligence and in document review. We are also using a lot of advanced technologies for legal research and litigation discovery as well. I am not counting the normal efficiency platforms and systems like ERP (enterprise resource planning) and the financial accounting system that we have been using for quite some time. We have sought the best platforms from across the world and have ‘Indianised’ them based on our needs.

You have mentioned that access to justice and dispute resolution are some of the key areas on which this legal-tech incubator will focus on. Is it achievable without the involvement of multiple stakeholders?

You are right in this observation. Prarambh is an incubator and it will involve a third-party or entrepreneurs to come up with ideas; we are only going to support those. For example, there are already a lot of activities in online dispute resolution, particularly for small commercial disputes. But later on, it can be more mainstream. This because a lot of processes related to dispute resolution or certain types of disputes can be done through advances in technology and sophisticated use of data. CAM is trying to help the industry change the gear.

A lot of digitisation has already happened in connection corporate law, but that’s not the case with civil or criminal law. Unless there is access to good data set, how can the ML or AI platform be more efficient?

It’s going to be a long journey. It will reach that stage step by step. Take the case of arbitration. I think, arbitration is one area that is amenable to modernisation with the use of technology, whether it is for document review or just conducting the proceedings itself.

There are concerns that AI and other new technologies can reduce human intervention, resulting in job losses. Does the legal fraternity have the same concerns?

That is completely overstated. We think that it is going to make a lawyer more efficient and create more jobs. It may take away some low-level jobs but that will be substituted by high-level jobs.

How has the use of AI helped improve the efficiency of your firm?

This is the second year when we are using AI. It saves nearly 50-60 per cent of our time. Also, it provides a higher level of accuracy with less human error. So it has allowed us to do more.

India is facing the huge challenge of piling up of pending cases. Do you think, the start-ups incubated by CAM will play a role in finding a solution to this issue?

I don’t know that yet. But, I hope that some ideas regarding access to justice and improving the dispute resolution system will get incubated here. That is definitely one of our goals. That really depends on the kind of idea that comes in.

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