Will the Corona Crisis tilt the scales for justice innovation?
Necessity is considered the mother of invention. But this almost universally accepted truth also has exceptions. A primary example being - the legal system!
For years now, the need for a radical disruption in the way we conduct justice delivery has been felt and vocalised by many. Needs of people to have better access to information about the laws, their needs to have efficient delivery of justice as well as to have fair outcomes.
A few passionate or well meaning individuals and institutions have taken steps to fulfill these needs. The individual efforts to create an entrepreneurial idea to innovate justice, have not been sufficient in fighting the giant Goliath of a system. A system that has been too complicated and over-resistant to change. The institutional efforts have many-a-times been unable to scale owing to change in leadership among other reasons. Overall, the David, bringing innovation or more technology in justice delivery has fallen short.
In the last decade or so, more sophisticated technology presented itself with different kinds of legal problems, including potential for it to create unique innovations. Need for the legal systems to change, to keep pace with the changing times, became more pressing. Legal systems, like always, resisted in most parts. The Goliath remained.
In the last few weeks, something fundamental changed with the Corona crisis. And legal systems across the world saw themselves struggling to keep afloat. Justice institutions have started looking for alternative, non-traditional ways to solve the problem posed to them by the current crisis - of reaching out to people who cannot remain physically present to obtain justice. Alternatives such as audio-visual conferencing, e-filing and virtual courtrooms are becoming adopted across jurisdictions. Courts are looking at themselves being forced to open up to more technology.
There is also a second fundamental change that is taking place. For the judicial systems, the need to remain functioning is pushing for change. But for the players actively advocating for change in the justice system, the change is ushering due to collaboration!
People are joining hands and that seems to be a new solution in itself. We are witnessing some interesting and creative initiatives. For example, #MakeLawBetter movement is bringing together legal innovators who are willing to contribute towards the crisis in helping the legal systems in imagining newer frontiers.
A variety of free resources are being available for everyone interested. Legal Conferences have moved online offering access to anyone with the internet. Institutions such as Harvard have started offering free online courses for lawyers to understand technology. Law firms have started helplines to resolve queries for their clients and legaltech companies have started offering open source softwares to lawyers to use in these times. Nonprofits are holding webinars to offer legal support and legal professionals are providing time to assist others find internships and jobs. This and so much more.
This unprecedented ushering of technology in justice delivery and collaboration across geographies to help one another should continue, even after the Corona crisis subsides. It is only then that the millions pining for justice will finally be able to find efficient, effective and friendly justice.
A global pandemic seems to be tilting the scales for justice innovation. Perhaps the time has come for the changes in the justice system that were greatly resisted all these years. The Goliath has had to come to David for help. It is now for David to do his part and walk shoulder to shoulder in facing a bigger challenge together.
* Views expressed here are my personal views.
* I would like to thank my friend Caroline Calomme. Her LinkedIn posts have given me a great overview of collaboration emerging in the legal domain.
This article was originally published on March 28, 2020 on Kanan Dhru's LinkedIn Page.
About the Author
Kanan Dhru is Community Manager at HiiL and Founder at Lawtoons.
She has over 10 years of experience in the areas of law, policy-making and justice innovations and has won numerous national and international awards for her work.
With a law degree from the London School of Economics and a Master’s degree in Public Administration, Kanan consults governments at the state and central level in India, advises non-profit organisations, mentors startups and manages several international communities apart from teaching and writing for prominent newspapers and magazines.