Legal-tech startups are coming into their own with easy and accessible solutions for people in distress at a time when most are feeling confined due to pandemic and the subsequent lockdown.
Such startups are also challenging the notion that sound legal advice comes with a heavy price. Most startups are built around volume and scale with the help of technologies and that is helping startups to bring-down costs for their end-users.
Clutch of legal startups have recently launched services including on-demand legal advice and even real-time tele-legal service for issues ranging from divorce cases and property disputes to even cheque bouncing cases.
“In most cases, when people are in any kind of distress, they want to talk to the lawyer at that very moment,” said Rohan Mahajan, founder of LawRato. “However, the lockdown has changed that. Most lawyers are still working from home and their clients are wary of physical meetings.”
LawRato launched real-time video consultation with lawyers on June 19, where the initial advice is free of cost for users. Since the launch of the legal video consultation service, the portal is witnessing on an average 500 video consult calls daily where people can get a consultation with lawyers registered on the platform for free.
Mumbai-based legal-tech platform Presolv360, that specialises in resolving commercial disputes in a virtual environment through electronic arbitration and mediation has also seen a jump in demand.
According to Bhaven Shah, co-founder of Presolv360, they had launched online arbitration module for commercial disputes in January, but at that time stakeholders were sceptical of adopting technology for conventional issues such as disputes and arbitrations.
“Now, we are getting serious attention from many General Counsels (GC) and CXOs,” said Shah. “In this quarter, we have onboarded and continue to receive several institutional inquiries from insurance firms, banks and NBFCs who want to use our platform for their arbitrations and dispute settlements.”
Shah claims that the timeline to resolve a dispute on Presolv360’s platform ranges from a few hours to 45 days as against several years in traditional dispute resolution.
Currently, as per the data compiled by the National Judicial Data Grid, there are around 3.29 crore cases pending in the various courts in India. Out of this, almost 77% or 2.52 crore cases are less than one-year-old cases. However, the prolonged lockdown and its impact on businesses as well as personal life are expected to have a cascading impact on courts and the number of cases are expected to rise.
Another such startup, LegalKart, recently started an instant legal advice service wherein anyone from anywhere in the country can take a 15 min legal consultation with a lawyer for the price as low as Rs 249. LegalKart was founded in December 2018 and currently has a network of over 5,500 lawyers across the country.
“In the last five months we received 22,500 legal help requests over 500 cities from across the country,” said Arvind Singhatiya, founder and chief executive, LegalKart. “Due to lockdown, most cases are still not filed but we expect lawyers will be busy once the courts become fully functional.”
LegalKart data suggests about 60% of the queries were related to divorce, domestic violence and child custody, while others include cheque bouncing, money recovery, property and land dispute and even job termination related queries.
At a time when the judiciary is facing strain due to vacancies and lack of adequate infrastructure, frugal innovations are clearly turning out to be the answer to the current problem.
“We have seen many Legal tech start-ups bring-down costs by effectively using technology to come up with solutions for their end-users. Some of the solutions are very innovative and attractive. These Start-ups largely operate around volume and scale,” said Raj Panchmatia, partner at Khaitan & Co. “While some of these may be good models but whether they will change litigation or dispute resolution landscape in India will depend largely on the outcomes of the dispute resolved through the mechanisms offered by some of these start-ups and the enforceability of the same. Till such time, large and high-value disputes will continue to be resolved through conventional ways of resolving disputes. There is enough space for both start-ups and the conventional practice to co-exist.”