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Future Of Legal Profession And The Way Forward For Legal Education

The paradigm shift in the law profession and the litigation space gives rise to challenges observed in the higher educational institutions to revisit their curriculum to prepare future-ready professionals.

This pandemic and the consequent lockdown have forced the legal profession into overnight digitisation. For the first time ever in the history of our profession, the Apex Court of India and the other subordinate Courts are hearing matters virtually. In light of social distancing norms, matters are being filed virtually. The Supreme Court of India is extensively pushing for an e-filing system, which will radically change the filing processes for lawyers. With e-filing becoming reality, lawyers will be able to file matters at their convenience from any location.  

While this is the present scenario in Courts, even law firms have efficiently adopted remote working models to carry out business regularly. Virtual meetings, virtual briefings, virtual arbitrations, virtual hearings are the forced experiments the legal profession is undergoing during this lockdown. The moot question is what will be the consequence of these forced experiments? This will bring about a virtual revolution and will make the legal profession more receptive towards technology. A great example of the same is the inauguration of two virtual courts for “Traffic Challans captured via cameras” during the third lockdown.  

Practices like conducting arbitrations virtually might become the new normal in times to come. Advanced technology tools, increased flexibility, minimal use of resources and time will make virtual arbitrations an attractive option for both parties and arbitrators. To reduce human exposure, Senior Counsels and law firms may prefer virtual briefings over physical briefings changing the existing working modalities of the legal profession. In the years to come, Courts might consider alternating between virtual and open Court hearings to balance between efficiency and not comprising on access to justice.  

The paradigm shift in the law profession and the litigation space gives rise to challenges observed in the higher educational institutions to revisit their curriculum to prepare future-ready professionals. The first step in this re-inventing process must be integrating technology in the legal curriculum. Law Schools must focus on introducing interdisciplinary courses between law and technology, courses on efficiently using technology tools and new technologies. With an increased number of activities being carried out virtually in the legal profession, Law Schools must be equipped with state of the art digital infrastructure. Students may require to be exposed regularly to virtual group discussions, virtual Moot Court Competitions to make them effective communicators over multiple mediums.  

With legal professionals becoming more receptive to technology, it will not be long before one will witness greater use of path-breaking technologies such as blockchain technology and artificial intelligence in the legal profession. As the world is moving towards greater transparency, with mobile phones tracking movements, increased online payments, video footage being available of most public spaces and data records being created of most conversations, one is likely to witness a drastic change in trials. In fact, this revolution has been triggered in the legal profession with the inauguration of new virtual courts, which are supported by, a software that allows a party to point out discrepancies in the footage captured by the traffic cameras before the Court. Similarly, tools such as artificial intelligence could prove to be valuable tools for future lawyers to scan volumes of data, audio recordings and video data, thereby drastically reducing the time taken to complete trials. Proficiency in using these tools and a basic understanding of these technologies will enable students to effectively use technology in the profession.  

To make students relevant in the changing times, Law Schools should provide a platform for students to learn extensively about smart contracting, use of blockchain in law, artificial intelligence and law, cybersecurity, data privacy etc.  

Globally, jurisdictions all over are reinventing their legal processes to tackle challenges of the lockdown and in the long run to increase efficiency by embracing technology. In light of these circumstances, legal academia must closely work with the judiciary and members of the fraternity to revisit legal curriculums and pedagogy techniques associated with it. There is a need for a strong collaborative effort to devise a roadmap to tackle these uncertainties and move forward successfully. This time COVID-19 forced us into overnight digitisation but for times to come let us embrace and adapt to new technologies to stay ahead of the curve.  

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house


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