Interview | Komal Gupta (Cyril Armachand Mangaldas)
Komal Gupta is the Head of Artifical Intelligence & Innovation at Cyril Armachand Mangaldas in New Delhi, India. We are very grateful that Milan Gandhi (TLF) had the opportunity to gain insight from Komal with her extensive experience.
Komal, do you have a quote you live your life by or think of often?
Everything happens for a reason – live it, love it and learn from it?
What have you changed your mind about in the last few years? Why?
I have changed my mind about taking risks in life – about taking the path less trodden and moving out of my comfort zone. I had a great career at Integreon and another LPO job was the obvious way to go. I instead decided to shake myself up and use my experience in driving innovation at CAM. Every bit of my previous experience from people and client management, service delivery and business development has helped me understand the firm, its culture and business and I am proud of my unusual decision. In fact, my decision has now shown an alternate career path to many.
Legal innovation in India
What are three defining characteristics of the legal sector in India vis-à-vis your experience of other jurisdictions?
Pricing pressures are more acute
Traditionally law firms have not incurred much capex
Tech investments are relatively low
Are there unique challenges or opportunities when it comes to innovating legal services in India?
We’ve only begun talking about innovation, technology, processes in India. It’s a clean slate - one can start from anywhere he likes. I see many more opportunities than challenges in the journey of innovation – there is an opportunity to educate, to develop, to explore, to experiment, to implement, to be the first one and to be the industry leader. Resistance and discomfort are a given for any change in life but when you have evidence of success – proof of concept - our lawyers slowly start embracing and enjoying the change. It is a slow journey but I am confident that we will get there sooner than other jurisdictions did.
Are there any myths or misapprehensions about the Indian legal sector that you would correct?
A popular myth is that the Indian legal sector is still Dickensian and old fashioned. It is already very modern and advanced. By way of example, I think the Indian legal sector is decades ahead of China.
What does innovation mean to Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas?
Innovation is in our DNA. The idea of opening a law firm 100 years ago in India was an innovation in itself. Early campus hiring, professional development trainings to produce the finest lawyers for a just world, adopting latest technology are all signs of innovation since the inception. Innovation is very dear to our Managing Partner and the entire firm is aligned with his drive to innovate in the practice and business of law.
How did you come to be the head of Artificial Intelligence & Innovation at Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas?
CAM subscribed to Kira in Jan ’17 to use AI in their due diligences to improve efficiencies and accuracy. My background of a lawyer skilled in people, process and technology was a perfect fit to execute Kira. While Kira was the starting point, I saw an excellent opportunity to use my skills and experience from my prior jobs in transforming the legal business – in innovating – in becoming a part of the success story of the best law firm in India. I am now part of broader innovation function of which Kira is just a part.
What does your role entail?
My role is very interesting – there are no boundaries and no set rules. In 2017, I was focussed on getting Kira up and running which I am proud to say I have achieved beyond my own expectations – it has become popular in very less time. My team has done a great job in training it and now producing live results with accuracy. While we started off with using Kira for our General Corporate practice only, we now have Capital Markets, Real Estate, Pharma and Financing teams use us regularly.
Currently, I am focusing on exploring new legal technologies, introducing global best practices across the firm, making the practice less people dependent and more process dependent and leading / facilitating various innovation projects. One of the most exciting project for me this year is the launch of the CAM incubator to help young entrepreneurs develop a useful product for the lawyers and get it right the first time. During product demos, I have found that the products are developed around the developer’s imagination of what will help a lawyer than the actual know how. The CAM incubator will support them with the practicalities. Some more interesting ideas are around using technology in enhancing our evidence management and drafting.
What is the project in the last 12 months that has excited you the most and why?
Training Kira and implementing it has been the most exciting and challenging in the last year. Training the tool to understand our style of drafting was the toughest task which we slowly accomplished. Then was the challenge of execution – of selling the tool internally and of teaching the practice teams on how to work seamlessly with the AI & Innovation team which is a process driven team. We conducted multiple training sessions for the Partners and Associates explaining them how the tool works and in what areas of their practice can they use the technology. Some brave Partners volunteered to be the first ones and soon the success story spread. We now have an average of two matters running simultaneously at any given time and repeat clients is a treat we enjoy!
How is Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas taking advantage of artificial intelligence?
We are using AI in due diligence, contract review, legal research and IP. We believe in efficiencies for ourselves and our clients and wherever we can get assistance from technology, we embrace it in our day to day practice.
The future of lawyering in India
One of The Legal Forecast’s themes this year is ‘the future of law is human’ – do you agree or disagree (and why)?
I think it will be a combination of man and machine which it is even now. The scope of work for the machine will likely increase.
What is your legal forecast i.e. how will lawyering change in India over the next 10 or so years?
We will have fewer but excellent quality lawyers. Technology will no longer be an option but a mandate. Hourly billing will be replaced with transparent fixed cost. We will move away from paper. Clients will be driving innovation and pricing. Work life balance will be far more important for our millennials and we will have flexible working hours, home offices etc. i.e. smarter ways of working.
Do you believe legal innovation has a role to play in advancing access to justice in India, and if so, how?
Absolutely. Innovation brings efficiencies with smarter tools, processes and resources, accuracy and speed – this will directly reduce the lifecycle of any transaction. We have been complaining long enough of delayed justice – innovation in how we practice law and smart lawyering will be the solution.
Do you have any tips for early career professionals who may want to follow in your footsteps to secure leadership roles at the coalface of innovation in practice?
Be proud of your decision to take the path less travelled. Studying law does not always mean practicing law – for professionals in the Innovation space, it means empowering the practice and business of law. Challenges will come in the form of resistance, opposition, how to continually innovate and encourage the innovation culture. Stay determined and focused on your role and KPIs – success will follow.
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