Jethmalani supports tech-savvy legal research post-retirement


Veteran lawyer Ram Jethmalani recently retired with the agenda of fighting corruption, especially the corrupt politicians. However, there is another task that he has taken upon himself which is to ensure that legal research becomes more tech-savvy and less time consuming.

IMG_5044rHaving voluntarily retired at the age of 94, after practicing at the Bar for over 75 years, the phenomenal jurist still doesn’t stop short of putting up a fight for the causes that he believes in. As a consequence of Jethmalani’s plea in the Supreme Court seeking that the country’s black money stacked up in Swiss banks be brought back, a Special Investigation Team (SIT) was formed to probe the matter. But this wasn’t enough for him to cease his fight against black money and corruption. He announced upon his retirement that he would now “combat the corrupt politicians that have been brought into positions of power.”

In addition to fighting the corrupt, Jethmalani also wants to devote his time post-retirement to making improvements in the way legal research is done in the country. He told Tehelka that he believes that it is high time that technology be used for the benefit of lawyers and judges to speed up their legal research that will eventually speed up the judicial system. In order to do so, he is patronising a legal search engine that will make use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to make legal data search easier and faster.

“As a book lover and an avid reader, I have always loved to read and research from books. I feel in the coming few years technology will play a key role and will transform the centuries old unorganized and unstructured legal data. India is turning digital and it is now time that the legal industry gets its due of using sophisticated and high end Artificial Intelligence technology to mine big data for its stakeholders,” Jethmalani said.

The legal search engine called Legit Quest, that will be launched on Law Day (November 26), is the brainchild of Jethmalani’s former junior associate Karan Kalia. “I am glad that an initiative like Legit Quest has been taken by my erstwhile associate junior Karan Kalia. Legit Quest is a one of its kind go-to-platform for the community of attorneys, law firms and scholars in the Indian legal system. It is a versatile team of tech savvy attorneys, engineers, designers who aim to make the practice of law simpler for its end users,” Jethmalani said.

Explaining his interest in the search engine, he said the legal profession is considered to be one of the largest and noble professions in India and the legal service sector is the critical sector which ensures all rules and regulations constituted are implemented well. The use and impact of technology came a little later in Indian Legal Service Sector than other sectors or industries. The use of AI technology, already implemented in various other industries and sectors such as Healthcare, Banking, Services etc., is now picking up the pace to be used in Legal Service Sector.

“Around 17 lakh lawyers are practising in India. But practising litigation had been a hard task for them. An active litigation requires a practitioner to put approximately one-third of his or her time in carrying out solid legal research for their cases. This can only happen if the professionals have sufficient and reliable resources to back their research work. Gone are the days when one used to maintain vast libraries in their offices and homes. In this era of digitisation, most lawyers, judges and students have moved online to carry out their basic research. But there is a scarcity of efficient search portal and a research tool for them to use for the purpose,” said Kalia.

“33.9 per cent attorneys frequently initiate their research by using Google which is the most generic search engine. Legal stakeholders are wasting their precious time in searching for relevant case laws or any other secondary source that has become a pain point. There is a great need to have a legal data-oriented smart search engine. Also, the case law data is still served in raw form in India by many online legal data companies. Even if after wasting ample time, the user gets the relevant data, they have a hard time extracting a specific piece of information for a proper case analysis. The whole approach of reading and analysing case laws demands a revolutionary change to have efficient and faster research,” he added.

Kalia, who has worked with Jethmalani for seven years, is the founder and CEO of Legit Quest, while Jethmalani himself is a patron, investor and advisor. Kalia said that he decided to work on the project while he was reading the laws at the University of Pennsylvania in 2016. “I had a presentation on the sources of legal search in South East Asia when I was doing my Master of Laws (LL.M) abroad. While preparing for the presentation I realised the vacuum in this industry which could be filled,” he said.

Asked what services his search engine would offer, Kalia said that at the time of launch, LegitQuest would offer iSearch, which is powered by AI and machine learning. “Through this, we will give you the most relevant results for your query in the first page. The whole purpose is to reduce the time taken to search, and to get the user the most relevant result with the least number of clicks.”

Nikilesh Ramachandran, Advocate-on-Record (AoR) in the top court, also associated with the venture, said that IDRAF is another revolutionary feature which has taken thousands of man hours of experts in the field. “With the help of deep learning and natural language processing we are able to now cull out the issues, facts, arguments, reasoning, and decision of every judgment since 1950 of the Supreme Court of India. It takes the user to the most relevant and accurate part of the judgment.”

The service also has another feature called iGraphics, wherein users are given the treatment of the case so that one doesn’t have to waste time reading the entire judgment only to find that it has been overruled. With this feature one can also immediately see when the case was followed or distinguished in the later cases, benefitting attorneys as they always want to find out the latest case which works in their favour, as the latest case will have the settled law. So, iGraphics will give the information on cited cases, distinguished cases, cases relied on, followed up cases, and overruled cases.

The company is also working to link Supreme Court judgments to High Court judgments. “The high court judgment provides with additional information that may come handy for the purposes of research. We have also been working on collecting secondary sources of information to provide all stake holders with a broader perspective while researching. The aim is to make users think beyond what is already available. While law is constantly evolving we need to have a mapping of all the information and database. Also, in continuation to the above we will be launching a gamification feature called iCite for law students specifically. It will help students in learning how to read and understand cases and earn more professional opportunities. This will be fun and students will contribute critical information to make the law easy to access and understand,” Kalia said.