A webinar on “The Future of Lawyers and Law firms in Pakistan – Legal Tech, Big Data & Online Courts” under the banner of ‘iwantseminars’ by the Entrepreneurship and Management Excellence Center (EMEC), Institute of Business Management (IoBM) was held on Saturday, August 22, 2020. It was co-powered by Continuing Legal Education Institute of Pakistan (CLEIP) and The Commercial Law Development Program (CLDP), USA.
The hosts of the webinar were Mr. Ahsan Jabbar, CEO, iwant.pk, who is also an IoBM alumnus. and Mr. Kamran Bilgrami, HoD, Corporate Training, EMEC, IoBM. The moderators of this webinar were Mr. Imran Khalil Naseer, former Chairman, Pak-UK Business Council, and Ms. Fariha Shah, IoBM alumnus, and former Regional Marketing Manager, PepsiCo MEA.
The opening dialogue was given by Mr. John Dickerson, Senior Attorney, Commercial Law Development Program (CLDP), USA. Panelists of this webinar were Barrister Nausheen Ahmed, General Counsel, Company Secretary & Head of Corporate, ICI, Pakistan; Mr. Shaharyar Nashat, Company Secretary, Director Legal & Public Relations, Hub Power; Mr. Amar Naseer, Partner, AUC I Law, Karachi & Lahore and Member, Continuing Legal Education Institute of Pakistan (CLEIP); Mr. Altaf Qureshi, Co-Founder, wukla.com & paksign.pk and Mr. Sohaib Saleem, Co-Founder, wukla.com & paksign.pk
During the opening dialogue, Mr. John Dickerson said that in the USA they are promoting the general acceptance of continuing legal education (CLE) as opposed to an X amount of years spent at a law school to become a certified lawyer. He said to enhance one’s learning about legal aspects, one must continue learning in this field. In the US it is the decision of the State Bar Association of each state to formulate their plans. Each state has a regulation for lawyers to work for an X amount of hours annually to have a valid license of law. He emphasized that many of the CLE’s in the USA focus on using technology in their routine work for research, documentation, and communication. He said a lawyer needs to continually evolve. Mr. Dickerson advised lawyers to not stick to what they have been doing but to evolve according to the needs of the changing times where technology has become the foundation for completing all tasks.
Barrister Nausheen Ahmed while mentioning the legal situation and its various aspects in Pakistan said that enforceability of contract is the main hurdle lawyers face. This is the same issue that the World Bank takes up every year.
During her talk, Barrister Nausheen Ahmed also explained the concept of mediation in the legal system. She said that if someone has a problem and they want recourse then they would need to spend time and money in the court cases. This essentially means that as a business if you are in a legal dispute then the resolution of the case can be delayed for three to five years. Barrister Ahmed also talked about a commercial mediation project launched in 2006 in collaboration with the World Bank in Pakistan that attracted her interest. Under this project, mediators were being trained. She was from the first batch of this project. They were doing a pilot project with the Sindh High Court. She said the idea was that those cases that were in litigation could be referred to mediation after seeking advice from the judge. She said that mediation does not take more than two days. The parties are in charge of the solution. She said that during litigation the lawyers are speaking on your behalf and the judge hands over the case. The same is the case in arbitration. In mediation, however, it is voluntary as the lawyers cannot begin mediation until both parties are not willing to do it. It is a confidential process as well. The lawyer cannot share the information with the other party or with the judge. Barrister Ahmed said that our cases are decided in an open court where many people get to know about the dispute people want to resolve and the information they share. In mediation, no one knows about the information one share other than the lawyer with whom the information is shared. She also said that in the US and Europe, mediation is a pre-requisite to going to court.
While discussing the impact of artificial intelligence on lawyers in Pakistan Mr. Amar Naseer said that one of the key areas is to handle the legal efforts and the outcomes. AI is going to offer new opportunities in the legal profession and lawyers need to keep themselves at par with the changing legal trends with respect to technology.
According to Mr. Shaharyar Nashat, law schools in Pakistan need to make changes in the curriculum according to the advice given by the stakeholders on how technology can be used in imparting education. Legal practices need to adapt to the changing landscape of legal practice in Pakistan. He was of the view that the change in curriculum and adoption of technology has been relatively slow in Pakistan. Legal technology and disruption in the US and Europe are changing rapidly. Mr. Nashat said that legal practice is ripe for disruption in Pakistan. The academic and the legal side must ensure our law students have the pertinent knowledge needed to be successful in this modern era. He said that in the future, the lawyers will spend less time reading books and more time reading and analyzing data.
Mr. Altaf Qureshi said that technology works best when you empower the user and not replace the user. He cited the example of WhatsApp in this regard. He said that WhatsApp empowered the users and it eventually replaced all messaging systems being used before. Mr. Qureshi said that those who are developing a system need to educate the users on how to use them. He mentioned that when new technologies were introduced in the legal system, it increased the number of lawyers and added productivity into the legal system.
Mr. Sohaib Saleem said that when stakeholders develop and implement technology they bring in the best and complicated stuff that becomes difficult for the people to adopt. Our population is not tech-savvy and the concerned stakeholders need to keep this in mind. He said that every application cannot be based on a smartphone. Easypaisa is a fine example of how small incremental changes can pave the way for major AI-based changes. He suggested making legal systems modern yet user-friendly to the extent that all legal practitioners can use them easily so they have no problem adopting a more advanced system.
Full Session Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dSbxF8slDNw