In conversation with Mr. Jaideep Reddy, Technology Lawyer at Nishith Desai Associates, on the future impact of technology in legal field

Mr. Jaideep Reddy, who is a dual-qualified technology lawyer licensed to practice in India & California, USA. He is presently working at Nishith Desai Associates. He has done his masters from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law. He was also ranked as a notable practitioner by Chambers & Partners in its 2019 Fintech Guide. He has been interviewed by EBC/SCC Online Student Ambassador Shriya Pandey who is currently pursuing law from Banaras Hindu University.

  1. Kindly introduce yourself to our readers.

I am a technology lawyer interested both in the regulation of technology as well as the ways technology can be used to make legal systems more efficient.

  1. What made you choose a relatively new and challenging field such as the amalgamation of technology and law?

I must thank a chance course with Ms. Chinmayi Arun called Comparative Communication Regulation at NUJS, Kolkata. It introduced me to the cutting-edge of technology regulation, reading the works of leading thinkers like Zittrain and Lessig. I have also been curious about new technologies ever since I got introduced to computers and the Internet in school. Essentially, disruptive technologies do not often fit easily within existing regulations, leading to interesting questions of interpretation which may not be available in other more settled areas of law.

  1. How do you think your LLM at a prestigious university such as the University of California has helped you in understanding the Indian legal system vis-a-vis technology?

Well, it was an insight into the US legal system, especially since I also got qualified as an attorney in California. It was also a good break from practice to step back into theory and think about the questions that one finds interesting. That in turn added a lot of useful perspectives on the Indian legal system, such as what we can do better, and possibly, what we are already doing well. There was also the opportunity to interact with and learn from best-in-class professors, practitioners, and colleagues from the US and around the world, as Berkeley has a very robust technology law program.

  1. What biggest mistake did you make in your legal career and what did you learn from it?

I have made a couple of mistakes like missing amendments to regulations or sending a wrong file to the client. One really feels the pinch of these and tries to use them as a stepping stone. On the amendments point, I apparently took that to heart as I am now involved in an effort to persuade the government to publish laws in their as-amended form online, in a systemic, reliable and up-to-date manner.

  1. Tell us one personal thing or trait or something which you enjoy about you, which you would like to share with our readers?

I enjoy all forms of music and play the Hindustani classical flute and bass guitar. I also enjoy reading both law and non-law literature.

  1. What are the skills a law student must develop for becoming a techno-legal lawyer?

A solid foundation in the legal method, i.e. how to research and reason through propositions, is essential. Technology law is essentially the field of law surrounding emerging technologies and is not a largely self-contained field like tax law, criminal law or patent law. Contrary to popular belief, a technology lawyer is therefore something of a generalist, advising on a wide variety of generally applicable laws. For example, someone advising a ride-sharing company needs to know the Motor Vehicles Act and Rules well. While there are a variety of ways to improve legal research and reasoning, reading cases regularly, both Indian and foreign, may be the most tried and tested method; after all, that is how we train AI as well – by throwing huge volumes of training data at the machine! That said, there are certain legal provisions and cases which one deals with daily as a technology lawyer, such as the Information Technology Act, Payment and Settlement Systems Act, telecom laws, KYC-focused laws, intellectual property laws and leading cases on each of these. In FinTech, one also needs to know the relevant financial sectors’ laws (e.g., insurance, securities, etc.).

  1. Quoting your statement “With ignorance of law not being an excuse, easy access to the law is paramount”, how do you think one can improve access to laws and the legal system?

As I said, I have taken up an initiative in the form of a letter to various government stakeholders, requesting for the law to be published systematically, reliably and regularly online. India has a huge volume of Central and State laws and these laws are amended every day. Legal publishers do a good service to the legal community by making these accessible both online and offline; however, this comes at a cost and also with disclaimers of responsibility. Further, some subordinate legislations and State laws can be challenging to locate and verify even with the best resources. It is hence the government which is ultimately responsible for publishing the law and making it easily accessible. The initiative has fortunately gathered good momentum and has got the support of various senior advocates, professors, advocates, students and others from around the country. Hopefully, our suggestions can make an impact.

  1. What are your views on the “exhaustion of search” as not many people are familiar with this concept?

I assume you are referring to research fatigue. One tip would probably be to think outside the usual keyword-search box. I have mentioned some quick tips below. There could be many other ways of finding a creative solution to a research problem. There is usually always something out there which, if not directly, indirectly will help one in their research.

  1. How important is doing proper legal research and how should law students equip themselves with legal research skills?

As they say, no lawyer knows all the laws, but a lawyer must know where to find the law. Legal research skills are invaluable and one can be quite creative as to how one goes about researching a proposition. Besides keyword searches, one can use techniques like quotation marks (to search for an exact phrase), searches within a government website on search engine (e.g., on Google, enter “site:[website URL] [search term]”), Google alerts or periodic keyword-based updates from legal databases. Also, many commentaries are now available as e-books, which makes them more easily accessible (especially in the pandemic situation) and searchable. If one is hitting a dead end, one can also look at less common resources like law lexicons and foreign case-law. Of course, for straightforward propositions, one will generally find a leading case that answers the point. One should also be familiar within important government websites like India Code and e-Gazette.

  1. Based on your knowledge of both the fields, what technological changes do you see in the next five years that will have the greatest legal impact?

There are too many to name and I will probably miss out some of them. Here are a few: quantum computing, drones, AI, driverless vehicles, augmented and virtual reality, faster and cheaper computing and Internet (e.g., 5G), facial recognition, 3D printing, new encryption technologies, crypto-assets and blockchain, Internet of Things and others. Each of these presents its own host of legal issues across a variety of laws.

  1. Recently, the documentary on Netflix, namely “The Social Dilemma” gained popularity and it postulates how our very own data has been monetized and sold back to us in the name of product recommendations, do you think that in the coming years we will be reduced to mere “products” and does there exist any possibility to protect ourselves with any legal framework?

Ultimately, in a democracy, people make choices as to how they can protect themselves from unfair practices. California and the EU have passed a set of pro-consumer privacy measures. In India, the new Consumer Protection Act, 2019 and expected new data legislation (Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019) should go some way towards protecting consumer interests, though there is still scope for improvement. I am also interested in new scientific breakthroughs like homomorphic encryption which enables both privacy and sharing of information at the same time.

  1. At last, would you like to give any closing remarks?

Always happy to chat or connect with anyone interested in common topics.

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