Published: 07th July 2021
Why law students should stay abreast of what's happening in the digital lawyering space
The process of digitalisation stresses on smart digital lawyering through which e-filing, e-hearing and e-trials can be possible.
The evolution and revolution of technology in the last few decades has brought significant changes to the work culture. The said changes demand the adoption of ‘digital knowledge’ in the workplace. The legal profession, considered as one of the oldest, becomes the most demanding subject nowadays. Thus, the profession strengthens with ‘digital lawyering’ with the growth of new technology. The concept of ‘digital lawyering’ refers to the adoption of new technology in legal practice that is imperative for the legal profession in the current scenario. Digital lawyering further helps in developing one's critical thinking skills, enhances the outlook of law and society and develops the professional capacity to excel in this profession.
With the passing of time, the advancement of new technology opens up new prospects in the area of law. Recently, with the growth of new technology, the traditional court systems, client meetings and traditional legal roles have been updated by conducting virtual courts, online issuance of certified copies of judgments, e-filing facility for bail applications and so on. For instance, the Supreme Court and several high courts have recently espoused virtual courts (VCs) under immense pressure to restore the workings of the justice system during this pandemic. Furthermore, many courts have also followed video conferencing during this pandemic with proper guidelines. With the changing paradigm, society also demands faster actions from the justice delivery system through the complete digitisation of the judiciary. The process of digitalisation stresses on smart digital lawyering through which e-filing, e-hearing and e-trials can be possible.
Similarly, most law firms are advocating for digital lawyering to run their daily business by taking up online client meetings, case-study, billing, attendance, resource utilisation and work allocation. Moreover, the use of artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics and machine learning tools make the legal profession faster and smarter. In a recent statement, Justice Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud pointed out that virtual hearings bring everyone to a single platform and opens up new opportunities to empower young lawyers.
The technological advancement has made it mandatory for legal professionals to adopt tech solutions such as Zoom, Google Neet, WebEx and other video conferencing platforms. Apart from this, online courts, remote working, e-libraries, digitised workspaces, digital signatures and case management are equally important and immutable for the profession. For successful digital lawyering, one has to strengthen and enhance, upskill, focus on collaborations and technological adoption as per the changing scenario. Apart from this, legal professionals should limit self-sufficient attitudes with the acceptance of multi-disciplinary professionals for better delivery to clients and legal services. However, there are a number of issues that challenge digital lawyering like inadequate digital access, weak digital literacy, dislike towards the usage of technology, diverse backgrounds, traditional law syllabus and inexperienced legal professionals.
Dr Biranchi Narayan P Panda | (Pic: XIM University)
Aspirants who want to enter the legal profession must update their digital knowledge with the advancement of new technology. Especially for young professionals and law students, it is a prerequisite to have a wide range of competencies in technological skills to flourish in the future legal workplace. Also, the role of law schools in building digital knowledge and digital lawyering is of utmost importance. Following are a few innovative ideas law schools must adopt to promote digital knowledge and digital lawyering among the students:
Creation of technology-centric innovation labs and hubs: Nowadays, law schools across India are admitting STEM students to law programmes. However, most law schools don’t address basic technical skill gaps of the students like e-filing, e-communication, e-drafting, data manipulation, presentation and managing documents and more. In order to overcome such challenges and make lawyers ready for the future, law schools need to initiate technological labs and hubs by ensuring that technology and law go hand-in-hand to guide and supervise law students.
Digital literacy curriculum: The absence of a digital literacy curriculum in most law schools in India impacts digital lawyering among students and future lawyers. Technical courses and assessments would enable law schools to understand and create a baseline of technical competency among students. Law students are considered as information handlers therefore, law schools must provide a technical foundation for better outcomes. A robust technical digital literacy curriculum in law schools can be helpful for digital lawyering.
Student professional development programmes: Professional development programmes are always useful. Trends like FDPs, MDPs and PDPs are noticed everywhere nowadays. Nobody is talking about student professional development programmes. Therefore, law schools should think about it and should adopt such professional programmes weekly or monthly for a few hours to enable students to be professionally ready.
Other digital lawyering skill sets: Law schools can also adapt to educate students on different basic computer skills, social and digital media, digital legal resources, online legal research and other search engines that are important to prepare one for digital lawyering. In addition to this, legal technology specialists, STEM professionals, HR, IT and knowledge management professionals talking or conducting sessions would surely help students understand the skill sets required in organisations.
The world is changing much faster and in order to match the pace, one has to update and transform himself and herself. Therefore, technology demands judges, clerks, lawyers, clients, law schools and especially law students to be trained on diverse aspects of technology. Overall, law schools across the country are required to enable technology to inculcate new skill sets among students and future lawyers.
Dr Biranchi Narayan P Panda is the Assistant Professor (Law) at Xavier Law School, XIM University. Views expressed are his own