The emerging future of law: Transformative experiences, expanding markets, and global events redefining the world of law
Hello, good people!
Welcome back to another issue of the Legal Tech Digest. You are reading Issue #12 of the Substack edition of this newsletter.
In this issue:
Featured story: Agamishaala’s 3rd cohort kicks off in Goa
In From the vanguard: Virtual court adoption across states, open data in law, state of legal access in the mobility sector, and more
In Startup spotlight: Legal tech startups expanding markets in and outside India. We also revisit the Agami Prize, for which 50 initiatives have been shortlisted from over 600 nominations after a comprehensive process of evaluation
In Investments (new section): Investments received by Indian legal tech startups since the last issue
In Around the World: I report on some crucial developments reflective of larger trends in the global legal services market that should be of interest to us in India
In From the bookstore (another new section!): Check out the new Business of law bookstore, along with book recommendations on strategy and general management
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Agamishaala kicks off 3rd cohort in Goa
In August, Goa became home to 22 innovators from the Indian ecosystem working to advance the state of the legal sector in India. These 22 innovators were part of the 3rd cohort of Agamishaala, a unique leadership capacity-building initiative by Agami.
Agamishaala was founded in 2019 as an annual leadership journey for justice makers and innovators in India.
The participants took a 4-day journey of personal and collective transformation, an experience carefully designed and facilitated by Agami to help leaders understand the justice ecosystem — and their individual role within that ecosystem — more intimately.
Speaking about her experience in curating the members of this cohort, Artika Raj said:
The part that we do, as Agami, is to curate who is ready for this experience... sense the inflection point where such a learning space can offer the kind of answers one maybe seeking or at least a reframing of the questions one may be asking in their journey of being changemakers and innovators.
And when you bring a group like that together, there is a certain peer energy that not just enriches the experience for each one, seeing their strengths and weaknesses mirrored, but also brings the space alive. Each in turn becomes a curator through the life experiences, stories and wisdom they bring to the group.
This cohort came from so many places in India - Valsad, Kotda, Kanpur, Guwahati, Bhopal, Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore... and each person brought with them a different slice of the justice experience in India... in short, there is little that we do. It's the people who make Agamishaala what it is.
What happens in the Agamishaala journey?
Well, it’s easier to talk about what doesn’t happen. There are no projects to do or tasks to complete. The experience is facilitated in a manner that limits excessive rationalisation of concepts, beliefs, and theories. These ways of top-down thinking (propositional knowing), while incredibly useful in everyday life, make it difficult for us to see the past the structural complexities of language, thought, and abstractions, making it difficult for us to see a system as it exists.
Instead, the Shaala experience is an invitation to invoke deeper ways of knowing, so that one can sense a system the way it is — free from all the complexities, abstractions, silos, and bubbles.
These deeper forms of knowing, such as perspectival knowledge and participatory knowledge, are also now a subject of intensive study in the domains of cognitive science and social innovation.
‘The way learnings are enabled is by completely grounding them in a member’s own experience. There are no theoretical discussions and all insights come from what you discover about yourself through different activities.
What is offered are guidelines, questions and context to the experience that is curated to help you reconnect with your core motivations, surface assumptions that create challenges for you and reveal insights that help to lead better and advance your work’
The series of activities are a mix of embodiment and enactive exercises, put together in a form of Social Art called the Social Presencing Theater.
Over the last three cohorts, Agamishaala participants have developed into a community of 70+ innovative leaders who are playing their part in system transformation — from different vantage points, focuses, and capacities.
As a participant in this year’s cohort, I felt the Agamishaala journey as a transformative journey — facilitated through an ecology of practices — essential for creating long-term systems change and innovation. The journey was highly contextualised to law and justice, and consciously designed to help leaders understand the system they are trying to innovate (as well as their role as individual parts in that system).
I also saw a lot of convergence between the emerging field of 4E cognitive science, systems thinking, and social innovation. I will explore these interdisciplinary connections in a different blog post; it will require some time to contextualise and explain why this work is so critical for systemic innovation in law and justice.
Now, on to the major sector developments since the last issue.
From the vanguard
Kolkata introduces e-Court for traffic offences
Kolkata is set to get its first e-court to deal with traffic and motor vehicles related claims, starting September 15.
This initiative is expected to allow motorists the option to pay fines and penalties immediately, on the spot of the offence. Payments can be made digitally or by cash.
Read more here.
Digitisation push: Supreme Court urges judges to use digital signatures
While disposing an appeal in an unrelated matter, the Supreme Court observed that uploading scanned versions of printed copies of judgments is a useless exercise that doesn't serve any purpose.
Instead, the Court observes that all Courts and tribunals must ensure that judgments and orders uploaded should be signed using digital signatures. The bench observed:
They should not be scanned versions of printed copies. The practice of printing and scanning documents is a futile and time-consuming process which does not serve any purpose. The practice should be eradicated from the litigation process as it tends to make documents as well as the process inaccessible for an entire gamut of citizens.
Related: Supreme Court saves 1.5 crore paper sheets a year
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34 paperless courts inaugurated in Odisha
In a function organised by the Odisha Judicial Academy, CJI U.U. Lalit inaugurated 34 paperless courts in all 30 districts of Odisha.
The concept of paperless court has been successfully implemented in the Supreme Court and different high courts including in Odisha, but this is the first state in the country to launch it in all the districts.
Virtual hearings in Waqf Tribunal: Madras HC rejects PIL
In what may be seen as a setback for virtual hearing adoption, a PIL filed seeking access to electronic facilities in the Tamil Nadu Waqf Tribunal has been dismissed by a Madras High Court bench.
This PIL was filed to improve accessibility to litigations for court and case management facilities, introduction of e-filing and virtual hearing before the Tribunal. Disposing of the PIL, Chief Justice M N Bhandari and Justice N Mala observed:
Physical hearing is the normal course and the exception is virtual hearing, that too, on account of the Covid-19 pandemic. It further depends on the availability of the facility for it. The counsel for the Waqf Board states that the tribunal concerned is not equipped with the requisite infrastructure for permitting virtual hearing’
Related: Ramshackle state of judicial infrastructure”: What have 18 years of eCourt project brought us?
ONDC to publish a white paper on dispute resolution
ONDC is expected to publish a draft white paper in a couple of weeks that would set out an exhaustive framework for dispute resolution.
Ahead of the network's public launch (expected Oct 2022), the paper will seek to boost consumer trust on the back of its reputation ledger and set out a framework for how it will resolve disputes.
The draft paper will be based on NITI Aayog’s online dispute resolution policy plan. It is also expected to share details about the working of ONDC's reputation ledger system.
99% truck drivers face legal issues on road
Data compiled by the All-India Transporters Welfare Association (AITWA) and Lawyered shows that almost 99% of transporters face legal issues while commuting.
Lawyered and AITWA had launched an on-road legal assistance service for truck drivers, ‘Lawyers on the Spot (LOTS)’ which seeks to provide immediate legal assistance to drivers whenever they face any issues on the road.
According to data received from LOTS, every second transporter is held up by the police for a traffic challan related issue or a GST / eway bill issue.
Since its launch a few months ago, the LOTS service has assisted 44k+ drivers in on-road legal issues, and has managed over 7000 live reported incidents across 475 cities across India.
Read the full report on Moneylife.
Know Your High Court Judges (KHOJ): New dataset with details of all HC judges
Last week, at a convocation event in NLU Odisha, the CJI along with other SC judges released KHOJ — a dataset containing personal, educational, and professional details of all High Court judges in India during the period 6 October 1993 and 31 May 2021.
The KHOJ dataset is available on Justice Hub in the form of an integrated master file with details of 1700+ judges from all High Courts in India. An accompanying booklet provides an overview of the initiative and the dataset.
The dataset captures details of High Court judges across 43 variables. For the documentation and files, you can also see this GitHub repo.
For a more detailed analysis on the importance of this dataset and potential impact, look at this Leaflet article.
Understanding Budgets on E-Courts and Judicial Infrastructure
Agami Prize 2022: 50 initiatives transforming law and justice
Since the nominations for Agami Prize 2022 closed on 30th June, the evaluation team at Agami has been busy studying 600+ initiatives in the Indian law and justice sector who were nominated for the Agami Prize 2022.
The first round of the evaluation process led to shortlisting of 50 initiatives. These initiatives are split between two categories:
1. The idea prize
The Idea Prize category is for early-stage initiatives that have the potential to transform our systems of law and justice. These initiatives are testing and/or building proof of concept for their ideas.
18 initiatives were shortlisted in this category. Checkout the Idea Prize shortlist here.
2. Shamnad Basheer prize
Named after the late Prof Shamnad Basheer, this prize category is for more mature initiatives who have proven that their ideas work, and are in the process of scaling and consolidating their impact. Checkout the Shamnad Basheer Prize shortlist here.
The process is currently in its second phase of evaluation where these 50 initiatives will be further shortlisted down to 14, out of which 4 winners will be picked by the Grand Jury.
The Grand Jury includes Justice Gita Mittal, Arun Maira, Osama Manzar among others who are yet to be announced.
Credgenics expands to Indonesia
Credgenics, the debt collection and management focused legal tech / fintech startup, has announced its expansion into the Indonesian market.
Indonesia is the first country outside India that Credgenics has expanded to. Other legal tech companies from India have shared similar plans for geographical expansion in Southeast Asia.
Hendra Rahman, country manager for Credgenics in Indonesia commented on the development:
We have partnered with System Integrators and Core Banking Solution (CBS) in Indonesia to gain more clients in the banking, microfinance and fintech industries. We will consistently strive to improve our platform to meet the end-to-end retail collection needs of banks and other lending institutions.
Related: Leegality and Credgenics recognised in NASSCOM’s Emerge 50 Awards
Market leader Vakilsearch rebrands to ‘Zolvit’
VakilSearch has announced a rebrand, and will be taking up a new identity including a new name: Zolvit.
Since 2011, VakilSearch has been one of the market makers and a success story in the retail legal services / productised legal services, targeting mainly the SMB sector.
Their announcement would suggest that the company has outgrown its previous name Vakilsearch; the business today is about a lot more than merely searching for a vakil. The name Zolvit seems to reflect a renewed focus to solving legal, tax, and compliance problems for their clients.
Goa-based The Legal Capsule rebrands to ‘Contractzy’
Making the announcement, the company said in a LinkedIn post:
Contractzy stands for Security, Integrity, and Simplicity to manage your Contracts on our platform. With Contractzy, we are fortifying our commitment to deliver better features and enhanced services to our clients.
The Legal Capsule is a CLM platform that makes it easier to create, collaborate, negotiate, e-sign, store, and manage agreements and forms on the go. Earlier in May 2022, the startup had raised an undisclosed amount of seed capital from SucSeed Indovation.
LegalPay data shows increased demand in litigation funding
Data from LegalPay, a Legal Tech (litigation funding) startup from Delhi, shows that over 40% the cases it has funded have originated from Tier I law firms.
25% matters appear to have come from independent counsels.
73% of the cases have originated from the unlisted space, with logistics accounting for 31% of cases. This is followed by banking and finance (28%) and construction and engineering (22%).
TransPerfect is opening a new (third) office in India
TransPerfect, a global provider of language technologies that simplify management of multilingual content, has announced that it’s opening a new office in Delhi NCR.
Commenting on the development, President and CEO Phil Shawe said:
We have seen incredible growth from our offices in Pune and Chennai and now have nearly 600 team members based in India. This new facility in Delhi underscores our commitment to continuing our growth in the region to better serve our clients.
Related: The view from above: Growing market for legal transcription
Webnyay (Seed, Aug 2022)
ODR Platform Webnyay has raised an undisclosed amount of seed investment, in a round led by Inflection Point Ventures and saw participation from SucSEED Indovation Fund.
The funds will reportedly be used to scale their the products / service operations, building machine learning capabilities, security improvements of the platform, and enhancing interoperability with respect to open networks like the Account Aggregator ecosystem, ONDC, and OCEN networks.
Lawyered (Pre-series A, Sep 2022)
Lawyered has raised ~$1 million in A pre-Series A round from Finvolve’s Apoorva Vora.
View transaction details
Lawyered has recently started offering subscription-based legal services with its 'Lawyer on-the-spot' service, which allows drivers and personnel in the trucking - mobility and logistics sector to seek legal help from a lawyer while they are on the road.
Earlier this year, Lawyered had acquired Delhi-based legal and compliance services provider Let’s scale up.
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Around the world
Plain language law: New Zealand debates making accessible legal language a fundamental right
A bill currently before the New Zealand Parliament seeks to make accessibility of legal information a fundamental democratic right.
While many countries such as India have expressed intentions to implement reform measures to make legislation and government-speak more democratic, accessible, and understandable, New Zealand is one of the first countries in the world to be legislating on this important subject.
More on this story here.
Related: Democratising the law: Making laws available in plain language
Scotland is the latest country set to introduce legal services reforms
As demands for legal services regulations picks up all across the world, the Scottish Government is set to introduce a Legal Services Regulation Reform Bill in the 2022 to 2023 parliamentary year.
The Bill seeks to provide a modern regulatory framework designed to promote competition and innovation in the legal services industry, while also improving the transparency and accountability of legal services in Scotland.
Read more: A stronger and more resilient Scotland
World’s first law firm owned by non-lawyers, hints global legal industry liberalisation
US based Radix Law is one of the first ever law firms in the US to have secured Alternative Business Licenses since Arizona liberalised the practice of law last year.
I have written a summary on the business ownership structure, revenue model, division of work (re client dealing), and pricing model.
A more complete analysis is available on Law.com.
A new Legal Standards ‘Monitor’ to make sense of the growing number of standards in law
With a growing number of standardisation initiatives across the world emerges a need to organise, track, and assimilate these standards to achieve the end goal of increased adoption. The Legal Standards Monitor has been started by Artificial Lawyer and Changing Legal to meet these ends.
In recent years, the Standardisation movement has been growing fast, with a number of standard bodies and organisations emerging to develop a common vocabulary for the legal industry, both at the levels of legal practice and the business level / business of law.
As an example, I have previously written about contract standardisation and the new open cap table format seeking standardisation of routinely occurring legal work.
More on this story here.
From the bookstore
For the geeks among us, I have put a new Business of law bookstore on the website.
On the bookstore, you will find a growing library of books that are directly relevant to innovation in the legal sector.
There’s something for everyone. The books are classified into different collections: from legal market economics, entrepreneurship, and industry insights to technology, talent, and careers in the new legal economy.
Starting with this issue, I will be recommending 3 books in each issue of the Legal Tech Digest.
Managing the Professional Service Firm
A management classic for professional service firms and highly relevant to law firms and legal service providers. In this book, David Maister explains the similarities between professional service firms and the distinctions with other industries, and provides timeline principles of strategy and management for professional service firms.
Law Is a Buyer's Market: Building A Client-First Law Firm
‘This is an exceptionally clear book, brimming with practical help, and humorous into the bargain. Jordan’s assessment of the legal market should be read carefully by clients and lawyers everywhere’ (Prof. Richard Susskind).
It’s time to do law differently: How to reshape your firm and regain your life
There's a lot of talk about why the legal profession should change, but far less about how to actually do it. This book is about productising, systematising, and operating a law firm, and gives a six-stage blueprint for transforming your law firm.
Btw, I share curated highlights from these books on my LinkedIn, everyday at 11 pm IST. Follow me / connect with me to read them in your feed.
That’s a wrap for this issue, folks.
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