The law and justice sector is not known for its cutting edge nature. The industry has stuck close to its stereotype and hidden behind its complexity, and used the same old methods to approach problems. But change is here. Two years ago, we launched the first-ever Agami Prize to find, support and catalyse ideas that are helping create a robust, thriving ecosystem that provides efficient, affordable and timely access to legal resources for all. And what we found? A group of thoughtful, committed changemakers taking on the audacious goal of transforming the future of law and justice in India.
The applications from over 166 changemakers revealed some exciting patterns and opportunities. Here are five interesting ones you should know!
Data: Making its presence felt in the legal system
Big data lies at the very core of the practice of law. Digitisation, organisation, and synthesis of legal data can radically increase transparency, accountability and efficiency within the field. We see many applications of legal and judicial data such as case management, practice management, fraud prevention, prison reform, and improvements in court processes. With COVID-19 accelerating the shift to online courts, these hold out the promise of being complete game-changers for the legal industry soon.
Colleges as innovation hubs: The sooner, the better
Despite institutional apathy – and occasional outright hostility – and a lack of resources, students are increasingly more interested in launching ventures. In 2018, 26 of the 166 participants founded their initiative while still in college. With access to dedicated time, technology infrastructure, institutional encouragement, and funding support, law schools (and other universities) can help inspire, educate, connect and accelerate entrepreneurs. Additionally, with a pool of knowledge and readily available young workforce, university-led innovation hubs serve as a smart investment opportunity.
Non-law professionals: Making the system more inclusive
The often opaque language of the law and poor understanding of its systems and processes is a barrier to people from other disciplines understanding the law and legal systems, leave alone solving their legal problems. It is in this context that we were delighted to find the participation of technologists, journalists, media, finance and business professionals in the initiatives applying for the Prize 2018. An increasing number of non-law professionals see law and justice as a domain they can operate in to solve problems for social and commercial outcomes.
Digitisation: A way of everyday functioning
The legal industry and systems of law and justice are still in the early stages of adopting digital tools, using digitised data, and managing professional digital identities. With the steady entry of millennials into these systems, this migration is happening faster and faster. Nearly 50% of participants in 2018 used technology in a significant way, enabling previously offline work to happen digitally, such as in practice management, legal research, legal education, and case management. And this year, we expect to see more. In the next three years, we think that the sector will primarily complete its transition into the digital age.
Citizen Participation: A Two Way Equation
The dominant approach in the legal and justice delivery system has so far been to ‘service’ citizens. Citizens are primarily seen as beneficiaries who need access to legal services or other support by lawyers and other actors in the legal system. Interestingly, 17 initiatives that participated in the 2018 Prize saw citizens as active participants in shaping our policies and legal institutions. Their efforts aimed to engage citizens in the lawmaking process, enable citizens to share their legal concerns, and participate in building trust-worthy state institutions. We see this as a promising step towards democratising the field of law and justice.
The Agami Prize is back this year to celebrate ideas transforming the field of law and justice. To apply or nominate an idea, head here: www.agami.in/prize.