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An Interview with Komal Gupta, Chief Innovation Officer at Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas

By Editorial Board LBW.

1. Komal, you’re the Chief Innovation Officer at Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas CAM), India’s leading law firm. Could you elaborate a bit more on your role? What inspires you about this role? In what way does CAM differ from other firms? And what do clients notice from all of this?

Broadly, my role at CAM is to promote a culture of innovation internally to ensure we continue to provide innovative solutions to our clients. The role is a combination of a lawyer, technologist, strategist, consultant, facilitator, listener, solution provider and an advocate.

I am responsible for the strategic planning and delivery of the firm’s innovation agenda. This includes the development and implementation of ground breaking new projects; driving a culture of innovation and creating curiosity; identifying, testing and rolling out new legal technology and the delivery of Legal Services leveraging technology; and designing best practice processes and alternative resourcing models.

I am not restricted by boundaries or limited to certain tasks - this is what I love the most about my role. I can make the role as interesting and challenging as I want by collaborating with other members of the firm and our clients.

CAM is a courageous firm and is not afraid of doing things the first time; be it using Artificial Intelligence for a due diligence exercise or running the country’s first legaltech incubator - Prarambh. For a changemaker, it is very important to receive the support of the leadership and I am lucky to have a Managing Partner who not only has a deep understanding of the area but also provides unwavering support. If you have an impactful idea, it is promoted and supported through to execution. This is one of the key elements for success in this role. CAM has always challenged the status quo and has been recognised for its leadership, expertise, creativity and courage to ensure the firm and our clients remain ahead of the curve.

2. If you have to choose 3 unique selling points which 3 should you choose to describe your business and why?

Ever changing best-in-class legal technology, coupled with best practice processes and India’s leading legaltech professionals. The toughest challenge in this space is finding the right talent. CAM’s Innovation Team comprises of six qualified lawyers who are experts in working with people, process, technology and data. My team has a vast experience of working with foreign law firms and MNCs across multiple practice areas, industries and jurisdictions.

This experience helps us in performing our current role effectively.

Investment and commitment to legal tech in India and the evolution of the legal sector through Prarambh, India’s first legaltech incubator. Prarambh aims to work with young entrepreneurs developing new technology-based solutions for the legal industry. We provide the appropriate infrastructure, subject matter expertise and mentorship to help place India on the map as a world leader in legaltech design and development. Prarambh has completed two cohorts with six startups so far. The third cohort is planned for next year.

Grass roots fostering of culture of innovation amongst every lawyer and business service professional. It is worth mentioning ‘Vichaar’ here which is an annual ideation week at CAM and has been running successfully since 2018. I think this is one of the most powerful programs that I have led to drive a culture of innovation within the firm. This program empowers all members of the firm to share their problem statements and ideas on how those could be solved. The ideators then collaborate with the innovation team and relevant stakeholders to execute their ideas. Vichaar has led to many impactful projects and we have enjoyed the journey of working with the ideators to implement their solutions and also continuously improving those solutions, year after year. Vichaar goes to prove that innovation / change / improvement is not a one person or one team’s job. This is a journey where we all have to come together to make a positive and significant difference.

3. What’s overall your opinion on the current process in the Legal sector when you think about development, planning and implementation of (innovative) tech strategies? Do you see differences between Indian, American and European firms in their daily operation and how they develop, plan and implement (innovative) tech strategies?

In all markets, there are law firms who demonstrate clarity of thought and are making good progress by improving their internal processes and also developing smart solutions for their clients. There are also some in the state of confusion - waiting for others to set an example to follow when they deem fit. Then there are those who are willing to take a risk. There is some disparity right now in how firms are reacting to ‘legaltech’ and ‘innovation’ - for some these are merely buzz words; others have a solid list of smart initiatives that have improved the business of law and have benefitted both lawyers and clients in many ways.

From the outside, it appears that foreign firms are ahead in using and building technology. However, when I speak to my counterparts across the world, I understand from them that the journey is similar for all of us and we experience pretty much the same challenges. After all, it is hard to change or even influence the way law is practised, across the world. Legaltech is just one component of innovation in which we are all at par.

4. Can you share some of the tech companies you follow closely?

I actually follow many tech companies which fall under categories of products and services that are relevant to us. One of my responsibilities is to ensure we are using the most appropriate and relevant legaltech for which it is important to keep a track of what’s happening in the legaltech market. I also follow closely all the startups that have been incubated at CAM’s Prarambh and also startups in many other areas such as smart contracting; advanced AI; litigation prediction; etc

5. As said, the legal profession is changing and professionals need to be more business and tech savvy. What do you see as the biggest challenge for the legal professional in let’s say five years from now?

I think we are set up for a big change in the coming times, if not five years, perhaps it will be ten years for India. We are beginning to see the judiciary adopt technology and discuss use of AI to speed up access to justice. The pandemic also has accelerated the change movement. All stakeholders – judiciary, lawyers, clients, tech companies will need to work hand-in-hand to bring in a significant change. This will demand a change in mindset with initial baby steps, followed by gradual advancements into solving complex problems. I do not see a problem for new lawyers since they have already started receiving training in their law schools to improve or change the traditional ways of practicing law. It will however pose a problem to traditional practitioners who are slow or reluctant to adapt their practice. Tech companies will also play a big role in creating awareness and proving with examples of how they enable as opposed to replace lawyers.

6. Many lawyers, GC and corporate counsel talk about the importance of the business of law and it looks like they easily adopt words like Brand Management, Consultative Selling, Legal Tech, A.I., workflow software etc. not knowing what it really stands for. Do you also experience this lack in knowledge and how do you cope with the difference in knowledge levels?

I have certainly experienced issues with managing expectations. For example, rejection of technology upfront or an expectation that technology should do everything, including replacing a lawyer’s intellect. It can be a challenge to convey that legaltech is an aid – it is an enabler but does not replace the professional (the human). Technology is made for a purpose but invariably comes with limitations. We also have to carefully choose the right technology that solves our problems. Previously I thought that showing how the product works i.e. focusing on the result is best. But with experience, I have learned that to manage expectations, it is important to go deeper and to demonstrate how machine learning works for example. This includes how many examples it takes to train for an auto extraction of a particular clause and how a tool learns and unlearns. Similarly, in the case of document automation, we now demonstrate not only the outcome, but how the automation is done. By broadening our approach to technology training, we find that expectations are more realistic and instructions are more focused.

In relation to different levels of knowledge, this is likely to be the case for some time as there are many factors at play here; including the importance of legaltech in different practice areas depending on volume, complexity etc. These external factors drive interest, adoption and knowledge at different times. Our role in nurturing innovation and awareness also requires us to meet colleagues and clients where they are (as opposed to where legaltech is) and to be vigilant and on hand when an opportunity presents itself. Ultimately, it is about the best outcome for our clients – there is consensus at CAM in that respect.

7. Do you think that Law Schools understand the need to change the traditional curriculum or at least give more attention to the business of law?

Yes, they do. Many law schools have an elective subject which is an additional, optional and short-term course on aspects of the business of law. Law colleges have been welcoming experts in the business of law to educate and develop essential skills in a new age and turn out well-rounded lawyers by not only focusing on the practice of law but extending the curriculum to areas like Business Development, Budgeting and Planning, Project Management, Design Thinking etc.

CAM is also working with a few law colleges on an exciting new initiative named CLIC – The CAM LegalTech and Innovation Certificate. This program focuses on educating law students about legaltech, innovation, design thinking methodologies and new law. The aim really is to make a gradual change by nurturing and encouraging an innovative mindset in law students and empowering them to challenge the status quo.

8. As Law Schools are the breeding ground for lawyers, how far –in your ground for lawyers, how far –in your opinion can we solve the problem of change acceptance by changing the curriculum

  • To a great extent – students are there to learn, so it is of paramount importance what they are taught.

  • The legal profession must lead by example here – this includes practitioners and the judiciary. It must also recognise and reward a progressive approach.


About Komal Gupta

Komal is the Chief Innovation Officer at Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas. She is responsible for the firm’s transformation, using appropriate legal technologies, processes and continuous innovation. Focused around LegalTech, Legal Service Delivery and Innovation Culture, Komal works at the intersection of people, process and technology to find working solutions to pain points.

She also manages a LegalTech Incubator, overseeing a 6-month programme for each cohort from crowdsourcing ideas and screening pitches, through to the emergence of market-ready products for the legal industry.

Komal is a member of the Advisory Board for the Asia-Pacific Legal Innovation & Technology Association and is a guest speaker at NMIMS Kirit P. Mehta School of Law for the elective subject – Law and Technology.


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