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Why lawyers must embrace technology

The sight of nervous litigants, busy lawyers, frantic clerks, all attempting to manoeuvre through the chaos of courts came to a standstill when the Covid-19 pandemic marked its presence in the country. A complete shutdown of our judicial machinery was an unfeasible option as access to justice and judicial review are indispensable and fundamental aspects of our legal system.

An alternate sphere of courts has been built in the virtual world with the assistance of technology. Virtual hearings through video conferences and the e-court systems have proven to be the solution to problems which we had never anticipated.

Virtual courts have enabled the lawyers to argue at the comforts of their homes and offices, eliminating the stress of darting from one courtroom to another. Additionally, e-filing systems have converted the process of litigation into a time-saving and cost-efficient affair. As Honourable Justice Chandrachud pointed out, the work of twenty judges is now being handled by one judge, therefore virtual courts have impacted positively the productivity of the judges and the lawyers.

Further, this substitute legal system has successfully bridged the gap between the litigants and courts. Litigants and witnesses are saved from the trouble of traveling to courts at every date. This has ensured greater participation and an effective. Additionally, technological tools like legal management software, e-signature, and e-payment tools have also become crucial to the functioning of the courts and law offices.

However, The Supreme court advocates-on-record association, the Supreme court bar association, and the Bar Council of India have expressed their unequivocal disapproval of the new system of imparting justice. Due to the sudden inclusion of technology in the legal landscape, many lawyers grapple with putting across their arguments effectively during virtual hearings. Lack of tech-support, bad internet connection, and an overall alienation towards technology have lowered the morals of the legal fraternity.

Yet, it is imperative to acknowledge the fact that technology is not going anywhere since constant change is the new norm. Apart from the obvious inclusion of technology in the courtroom set-up, the adoption of cloud-based services and legal management software have also entered the market. Law firms and offices have been forced to move away from the traditional way of updating cases, informing the clients and tracking orders and judgments, and adopt software tools to maintain case diaries and files. Henceforth, technology leadership is crucial for making the transition to a virtual world smooth. The goal is to not allow any virtual users to fend for themselves and become isolated in this virtual environment.

Even though virtual courts cannot completely replace physical hearings, there is set to be a tectonic shift in the way in which law firms and offices function. Law firms and offices have now been forced to include health and safety in their disaster mitigation plans, apart from financial and business considerations. Therefore, work from home and remote job roles are set to stay in the post-pandemic world as well because the crisis has enabled us to identify dispensable and unnecessary.

Therefore, innovation and development of project management tools tailored for the legal fraternity, tech support, e-payment and e-signature, software are the way forward. Alternatively, the virtual world is accompanied by a constantly looming cybersecurity threat henceforth it is prudent to employ resources into research, innovation, and development in the field of cybersecurity.

Henceforth, now the virtues of a good lawyer are not limited to skills of litigation, research, oration, academia, and time management, but also a comfort towards and understating of technology. It is prudent for the lawyers to familiarize themselves with the new system of virtual courts, management software, e-payment methods, e-filing systems, and virtual office management. Technology is integrating into the real world at an exponential pace, and so it is imperative for lawyers to keep an open mind and embrace the new changes and beginnings.

The pandemic has impacted the system of litigation permanently. It involves a shift of the status quo of the system to a new regime. Post-pandemic, the judiciary should explore the areas of litigation which witnessed compatibility with alternate system and incorporate a combination administration of virtual and physical hearings. This would allow the courts to enjoy the best of both worlds; cost-effectiveness, increase in productivity, and time management, while also ensuring that justice prevails!

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