“The legal profession is traditionally one that wasn’t privy to a lot of legal tech advancements; but since of late, there has been progress in this particular area,” said the Presiding Partner of the Moot Court Bench Sulaiman Rameez, in a recent Talking Business episode on LMDtv.
He explained: “Primarily, there are two types of legal tech – one that helps lawyers and law firms with their practice, such as document automation, billing and client management, while the other challenges the traditional lawyer with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning.”
“They’re trying to automate the smaller tasks that lawyers can do – so that people can directly use software and obtain legal advice or have a contract drafted without having to approach a lawyer for that,” Rameez elaborated.
And he continued: “Many international law firms have adopted legal tech whereby some companies prefer software over the traditional approach while others have hybrid mechanics.”
Rameez believes that Sri Lanka has excellent law firms. And the recent 2021 Asia Law Awards where a few local law firms were featured is a testament to this statement. “Law firms involved in commercial practice will have to keep pace with the businesses they have as clients,” he noted.
With businesses adopting AI and machine learning at such a rapid rate, and trying to maximise the efficiency of processes, Rameez remarked that “if they want to read the enemy’s clients, it’s only natural that law firms also keep pace.”
To this end, he stated that “businesses use simple software such as Microsoft and Google, which isn’t a big deal for younger people but senior members of the profession can find this to be a challenge.”
“I’m happy to say that a lot of them have adapted really well. Perhaps they’re better than us in using such software,” he declared.
Rameez emphasised that “emotional intelligence is vital for any profession that deals with people and law is one such profession.” And he noted that “90 percent of the time, we are dealing with people.”
Having to deal with different types of clients – some of whom may not be easy to work with – calls for emotional intelligence.
He also asserted that “you really have to take a step back and analyse what types of risks your client is getting into. To do that, you should be able to sit down and listen to them – and understand why and how they do what they do.”
Rameez also discussed corporate law. Some of the developments he acknowledged as being game changers include the Companies Act No. 7 of 2007. He associated it with “harmonising Sri Lanka’s approach to corporate law with the rest of the world.”
Meanwhile, he remarked that “the new Securities and Exchange Commission Act No. 19 of 2021 has some excellent features.” According to him, the e-ROC system introduced by the Registrar of Companies last year is another useful mechanism to improve the ease of doing business here in Sri Lanka.
When it comes to alternative dispute resolution methods for businesses, he said “there are primarily three forms – arbitration, mediation and negotiation,” and added that “arbitration is what’s most commonly used in Sri Lanka.” This is similar to private dispute resolution where the parties involved can reach out to an independent person instead of going to the courts to resolve a dispute.
“To really maximise the benefits…, substantial knowledge is necessary,” noted Rameez, adding: “Companies that use them have found it to be extremely addictive as it’s faster and confidential.”
He also pointed out that businesses have more control over how the dispute resolution process takes place.
Summing up with his take on the legal profession, Rameez stated: “This profession isn’t for the fainthearted as a lot of hard work is involved.” He believes that Sri Lanka has a high supply of lawyers but there’s a limited number of well-established law firms to accommodate all the budding young lawyers.