Interview | Komal Gupta (Cyril Armachand Mangaldas)

Komal Gupta is the Head of Artifical Intelligence & Innovation at Cyril Armachand Mangaldas in New Delhi, India.  We are very grateful that Milan Gandhi (TLF) had the opportunity to gain insight from Komal with her extensive experience.

Komal, do you have a quote you live your life by or think of often?

Everything happens for a reason – live it, love it and learn from it?

What have you changed your mind about in the last few years? Why?

I have changed my mind about taking risks in life – about taking the path less trodden and moving out of my comfort zone.  I had a great career at Integreon and another LPO job was the obvious way to go.  I instead decided to shake myself up and use my experience in driving innovation at CAM.  Every bit of my previous experience from people and client management, service delivery and business development has helped me understand the firm, its culture and business and I am proud of my unusual decision.  In fact, my decision has now shown an alternate career path to many.

Legal innovation in India

What are three defining characteristics of the legal sector in India vis-à-vis your experience of other jurisdictions?

  • Pricing pressures are more acute
  • Traditionally law firms have not incurred much capex
  • Tech investments are relatively low

Are there unique challenges or opportunities when it comes to innovating legal services in India?

We’ve only begun talking about innovation, technology, processes in India.  It’s a clean slate – one can start from anywhere he likes.  I see many more opportunities than challenges in the journey of innovation – there is an opportunity to educate, to develop, to explore, to experiment, to implement, to be the first one and to be the industry leader. Resistance and discomfort are a given for any change in life but when you have evidence of success – proof of concept – our lawyers slowly start embracing and enjoying the change.  It is a slow journey but I am confident that we will get there sooner than other jurisdictions did.

Are there any myths or misapprehensions about the Indian legal sector that you would correct?

A popular myth is that the Indian legal sector is still Dickensian and old fashioned.  It is already very modern and advanced.  By way of example, I think the Indian legal sector is decades ahead of China.

What does innovation mean to Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas?

Innovation is in our DNA.  The idea of opening a law firm 100 years ago in India was an innovation in itself.  Early campus hiring, professional development trainings to produce the finest lawyers for a just world, adopting latest technology are all signs of innovation since the inception.  Innovation is very dear to our Managing Partner and the entire firm is aligned with his drive to innovate in the practice and business of law.

How did you come to be the head of Artificial Intelligence & Innovation at Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas?

CAM subscribed to Kira in Jan ’17 to use AI in their due diligences to improve efficiencies and accuracy.  My background of a lawyer skilled in people, process and technology was a perfect fit to execute Kira.  While Kira was the starting point, I saw an excellent opportunity to use my skills and experience from my prior jobs in transforming the legal business – in innovating – in becoming a part of the success story of the best law firm in India.  I am now part of broader innovation function of which Kira is just a part.

What does your role entail?

My role is very interesting – there are no boundaries and no set rules. In 2017, I was focussed on getting Kira up and running which I am proud to say I have achieved beyond my own expectations – it has become popular in very less time.  My team has done a great job in training it and now producing live results with accuracy.  While we started off with using Kira for our General Corporate practice only, we now have Capital Markets, Real Estate, Pharma and Financing teams use us regularly.

Currently, I am focusing on exploring new legal technologies, introducing global best practices across the firm, making the practice less people dependent and more process dependent and leading / facilitating various innovation projects.  One of the most exciting project for me this year is the launch of the CAM incubator to help young entrepreneurs develop a useful product for the lawyers and get it right the first time.  During product demos, I have found that the products are developed around the developer’s imagination of what will help a lawyer than the actual know how.   The CAM incubator will support them with the practicalities.  Some more interesting ideas are around using technology in enhancing our evidence management and drafting.

What is the project in the last 12 months that has excited you the most and why?

Training Kira and implementing it has been the most exciting and challenging in the last year.  Training the tool to understand our style of drafting was the toughest task which we slowly accomplished.  Then was the challenge of execution – of selling the tool internally and of teaching the practice teams on how to work seamlessly with the AI & Innovation team which is a process driven team.  We conducted multiple training sessions for the Partners and Associates explaining them how the tool works and in what areas of their practice can they use the technology.  Some brave Partners volunteered to be the first ones and soon the success story spread.  We now have an average of two matters running simultaneously at any given time and repeat clients is a treat we enjoy!

How is Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas taking advantage of artificial intelligence?

We are using AI in due diligence, contract review, legal research and IP.  We believe in efficiencies for ourselves and our clients and wherever we can get assistance from technology, we embrace it in our day to day practice.

The future of lawyering in India

One of The Legal Forecast’s themes this year is ‘the future of law is human’ – do you agree or disagree (and why)?

I think it will be a combination of man and machine which it is even now.  The scope of work for the machine will likely increase.

What is your legal forecast i.e. how will lawyering change in India over the next 10 or so years?

We will have fewer but excellent quality lawyers.  Technology will no longer be an option but a mandate.  Hourly billing will be replaced with transparent fixed cost.  We will move away from paper.  Clients will be driving innovation and pricing.  Work life balance will be far more important for our millennials and we will have flexible working hours, home offices etc. i.e. smarter ways of working.

Do you believe legal innovation has a role to play in advancing access to justice in India, and if so, how?

Absolutely.  Innovation brings efficiencies with smarter tools, processes and resources, accuracy and speed – this will directly reduce the lifecycle of any transaction.    We have been complaining long enough of delayed justice – innovation in how we practice law and smart lawyering will be the solution.

Do you have any tips for early career professionals who may want to follow in your footsteps to secure leadership roles at the coalface of innovation in practice?

Be proud of your decision to take the path less travelled. Studying law does not always mean practicing law – for professionals in the Innovation space, it means empowering the practice and business of law.  Challenges will come in the form of resistance, opposition, how to continually innovate and encourage the innovation culture.  Stay determined and focused on your role and KPIs – success will follow.


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From post-it notes to reality: Race to the Future

Written by Sophie Tversky, TLF Victoria President

On 4 May, The Legal Forecast Victoria held a world first: Race To The Future. It was a metaphorical race, a ‘legal sprint of the mind,’ a 12-hour action-packed day, comprising five challenges taking place around Melbourne CBD. Each challenge reflected a different area of change in the legal industry: client-centred AI, e-discovery, mental health & wellbeing, access to justice, and legal education & careers.

The day began bright and early with a launch at Thomson Reuters – teams were formed, each provided with an Innovation Pack, containing helpful resources and props to guide teams throughout the day…. including lollies to keep their energy levels up! Each team was mentored by representatives of law, technology and professional service firms: Gilbert + Tobin, Janders Dean, Herbert Smith Freehills, Piper Alderman, Allens, Neota Logic, Hive Legal and Law Squared.

The starting line, teams at the start of the day

Teams delved into reforming the legal education system, uncovering ways of improving mental health resources and structural support in the court system, designing an AI-platform to assist a client with environmental approval compliance, proposing technological competency standards, and coming up with solutions to assist access to justice in rural and remote areas.

Teams had the option of completing two further bonus challenges: to rewrite and transform a verbose contractual provision into plain English making it accessible to the general public and building what the future of law would look like, using the resources and utensils in their Innovation Pack.

Teams competing challenges

Teams then further developed one challenge outcome to pitch to judges at a final Presentation Evening & Legal Fair. Teams were assessed throughout the day and on the night on their creativity & design, critical thinking, originality & innovation, collaboration and presentation & engagement.

The Presentation Evening and Legal Fair

We are so grateful to our wonderful final judging panel: Jodie Baker (Founder and CEO of Xakia Technologies, Deputy Chair of ALTA, Co-Chair to College of Law’s Centre for Legal Innovation), Claire Vines (Head of Technology of lexvoco) and Katie Miller (Executive Director of Victoria Legal Aid and author of the report, ‘Disruption, Innovation and Change: The Future of the Legal Profession’). They engaged with teams and interacted with their creations.

Final judging panel: Jodie Baker, Katie Miller and Claire Vines

Katie Miller, Executive Director of Victoria Legal Aid said:

“Fantastic event. I was struck by the number of complex issues woven into the solutions designed by the students. It showed a depth of critical, yet productive, thinking and the strength to be gained by combining that with a playful mindset.”

Our incredible keynote, Jeanette Cheah from The Hacker Exchange inspired everyone in the room, encouraging the audience to continue to be courageous: “your companies and communities in the future need it’ and to “use your social capital, they’ll advocate for you in meetings and they’ll give you feedback.” Jeannette encouraged participants to use this experience as a starting pad, to further develop ideas.

Keynote speaker: Jeanette Cheah

Then… *drumroll* the winners were announced: with Team Fancy Pens (Team Purple), mentored by Piper Alderman, as the winning team. They won the Race to the Future trophy and the team will co-author articles to be published by Thomson Reuters.

Winning Purple Team (Team Fancy Pens)

Team Justice League (Team White), mentored by Gilbert + Tobin, won the Best Performing Team in the Access To Justice Challenge Prize. They received credit vouchers towards a workshop/course at General Assembly.

Winning team of the A2J Prize, White Team (Team Justice League)

Cristabel Gekas received the GlobalX Prize for Innovation, Leadership & Systems Thinking, and was awarded an internship at GlobalX.

Cristabel Gekas receiving her award from COO of GlobalX, David Hobley

The Why

Race To The Future aimed to shake up the Hackathon, focus on innovation as process and bring a sense of play to the legal industry. RTTF sought to celebrate doing things differently, focus on both tech and non-tech solutions and delve into the rationale for choice of mode/mechanism for solving problems. This encouraged critical thinking about problem(s) and resolution(s).

Culture and environment are key to creating spaces that permit ideas (even crazy ones) to thrive. Our approach was that you can pare down a crazy idea but you can’t build one up! We wanted to create a space where “YES AND..” and “WHAT IF?’  were the default mindsets.

The Feedback

“Race To The Future is an awesome way to meet like-minded law students and legal professionals who are all interested in improving the legal industry through innovation and technology. The day was fun, challenging and entirely practical. I wish law school had these days built into the curriculum!”

“Absolutely loved it! Fantastic day, learnt a lot, met a lot of great people, both fellow students and the mentors. Couldn’t recommend the experience more…”

“It was absolutely wonderful. I didn’t know what to expect, but it exceeded any expectation I could have had… I can speak for my entire team in saying we all had an incredible time…”

“Race To The Future is one of the most enriching and innovative playgrounds for law students who aspire to incorporate technology, creativity and innovation in their future careers”

“I loved being part of this event. I was particularly impressed that the event challenged students (and mentors) to not only think about the law and the legal industry in a different way but also provided an opportunity for students gain new skills, like project planning and process mapping. It provided a terrific opportunity to connect with like-minded legal professionals at a variety of different stages of their careers. If this is what the future of law looks like – I am excited.”


Team Green  (Green Lanterns) – Mentored by Janders Dean:

Team Green Lanterns focused on educating youth in rural, remote and regional communities about the legal system and their rights through educational tools such as comic books, online animation, videos and a ‘Law on Wheels’ van.

Team Navy Blue (Deep Blue) – Mentored by Neota Logic:

Team Deep Blue explored changes at law school to prepare lawyers for their future careers and integrating mental health resources into the curriculum. This was to be rolled out to the profession at large by establishing a network of support resources facilitated by technology.

Team Pink – Mentored by Allens:

Team Pink focussed on client-centred AI and used the concept of machine learning to assist clients navigate statutory requirements of environmental protection. Using a decision tree, their prototype could be extended to wider applications – such as building and planning permits.

Team Black- Mentored by Law Squared:

Team Black presented the ‘Montessori Legal Academy’ – a total revamp of the Bachelor of Laws program that integrated technology into the curriculum with the aim of exposing students to a high level of practical assignments and technology.

Team Purple (Team Fancy Pens) – Mentored by Piper Alderman:

Team Fancy Pens developed and proposed standards for legal tech competency and open source standards for legal documents, to be implemented under the Supreme Court Practice Note GEN 5 Technology in Civil Litigation. These standards would support the use of a range of technologies including VR interfacing and beyond.

Team White (Team Justice League) – Mentored by Gilbert + Tobin:

Team White presented their “Court Companion”, an app for first time users of the court system to make the process as non-confronting and comfortable as possible, specifically targeting rural areas.

Team Sky Blue – Mentored by Herbert Smith Freehills:

Team Sky Blue designed an artificial solution platform to assist the construction industry with regulatory compliance and potential legal fees associated with the building process and environmental impact statements.

Team Yellow (Team Buzz Squad) – Mentored by Hive Legal:

Team Yellow focussed on the issue of stigma around mental health in the legal industry and facilitating networks of support for judges, lawyers and clients, including but not limited to compulsory debriefings and post-proceeding support for clients.

Thank you

A big thank you to our major sponsors GlobalX, Thomson Reuters and Dazychain for your generous support and mentorship throughout the day.

Thank you to College of Law and General Assembly for being our wonderful venue sponsors.

Thank you to Thomson Reuters, General Assembly and GlobalX for generously providing students with further opportunities to grow in their professional development through your prizes.

Thank you to the team mentors from Gilbert + Tobin, Janders Dean, Herbert Smith Freehills, Piper Alderman, Allens, Neota Logic, Hive Legal and Law Squared for giving up your day to guide students.

Thank you to the team of volunteers and National TLF board members who came down to be part of this event.

Other media:

Blog post by Lauren Solomonson (Team Black member):

Twitter channel:

Photos (with more to be added):