Aishwarya Shaji | Herbert Smith Freehills Junior Mooting Competition Winner | CASEDO Interview

“A great advantage of technology is that it helps to level the playing field. The use of technology within the legal sector is a much-needed change that has been accelerated by COVID-19. Casedo is brilliant software not only because it contributes to sustainability by helping students and professionals switch to paperless advocacy but also because it is intuitive to use and cost-effective”

Aishwarya is a penultimate year law student at University College London. She is the Second-Year Representative at the UCL Law Society Committee and a research intern at Legal Atlas. As an aspiring barrister and tech enthusiast, she was well equipped for success at the Herbert Smith Freehills Junior Mooting Competition, sponsored by Casedo.

On the 28th October 2020, Milad Shojaei interviewed Aishwarya on her experience mooting paperlessly with Casedo.

Tell us a bit about yourself, what area of law are you studying, what area of law you are trying to go into, are you planning to qualify as a barrister or a solicitor?

I’m a second-year law student at University College London (UCL), and in the committee at the law society. I was elected last year as the first-year representative, and this year I was also elected as a second-year representative. I was born and raised in Kuwait but I’m originally from India, but having lived my whole life in Kuwait, this is my first time studying abroad. As for the area of law, it is quite hard to answer that now, since we only studied compulsory modules, but my favourites so far have been criminal law, tort law, international law, public law, and human rights. So, they are more public focused. I am also more tilted towards the bar, I love advocacy, and it is just that having seen solicitors as well as barristers, I think that the work barristers do, speaks to me more, the way they go about their work, how diverse it is, and how passionate they are about what they do. So, I’m definitely more interested in the bar for now.

What was your mooting experience like before the Junior Mooting Competition at UCL?

I think it is the same for a lot of students coming to law school that we have very little to zero mooting experience, so personally I had no mooting experience at all, but I was very interested in the idea of mooting. I remember coming to law school thinking that this is that one activity that I definitely wanted to try out. But actually, the Junior mooting competition is traditionally a part of our freshers’ fortnight. Last year I remember sitting as a fresher watching the finals. It was Lord Hodge that was judging the last years’ competition. I understood absolutely nothing as it was just my second week of law school, but I just really enjoyed watching it, it was interesting to see how the participants were conducting themselves, how they structured their arguments, and I think I picked up a lot of things intuitively from just watching. It was amazing just going through that process a year later, I’m really humbled by it.

It was really exciting seeing Lord Carnwath getting involved and adjudicating. What was it like mooting before a supreme court judge?

I think the fact that we were all doing it from our homes, across the world, and there was the comfort of doing it at home, rather than seeing him actually in front of us. There is definitely a real difference when you are advocating in front of an actual judge or someone with an actual judging experience compared to advocating in front of a solicitor or students who have mooted before. The way judges think is different, and actually seeing it happen in front of me was very interesting.

The Casedo team were really excited in helping the moot go paperless and virtual. As someone who always had an eye for the law and mooting, what was your opinion in mooting in this revised way.

I had heard about Casedo, and have seen people who have participated in moots hosted by Casedo. It was very interesting to think that we are having paperless moots now and of course there is a division of opinions between people thinking that even though we have paperless moots, in the real world the majority of barristers are heavily reliant on paper, but actually going through the experience of a paperless moot I definitely think it is something people should be testing and trying out. Firstly, because it is great for the environment, also the idea of printing out extensive pages is exhausting, so the idea that for the mooting we had it paperless was great. Also, the idea that Casedo was thought of and developed by a barrister, plays a huge role in how seamless the software is. That is because it was designed by someone who knows the ins and outs of the system really well, so every time I use Casedo to figure out how to do something, the feature for it was always there, and so I was never faced with a situation where I felt that I could do something with paper that I could not have done in Casedo. Which is great, because I think that really speaks to the strengths of Casedo as a software, and something really is practically useful. As it is with any technology, the first few days you wouldn’t know where to go or how to use it, but with Casedo it was after very few days that I was able to use it, and that’s what I love about the software. It’s very easy, and very quick. I thought it was brilliant actually.

Do you think the legal sector needs more technology?

I think technology is probably the most brilliant thing in terms of levelling the playing field for everybody. It really helps a lot of people gain access many things within law, and the thing about law is that it can get very complicating very quickly if you’re someone who has never been accustomed to the system and all of a sudden you want to find out the law about something or you have to be involved in a criminal justice system for example it can be very complicating for you to understand things, and technology can help reducing those inequalities. I’m actually a research assistant with a legal intelligence company called Legal Atlas, and they work with artificial intelligence, visuals, maps and more, in order to help the people understand the law. I work for the jurisdictions of UK and India, because that’s what I’m familiar with, this is about me using my experience and the technology available in order to create summaries about the law that people can understand, it’s quite difficult because you have to think about how someone who has absolutely no idea about the law and the legal jargons, and explain things to them.

I actually did a first-year workshop with Herbert Smith Freehills who was also a sponsor for the Junior Mooting Competition at UCL, and they were talking about innovation, and many people think that technology is going to take away the role of lawyers, and they were very firm in their opinions and I agree with it, that technology only helps focus our skills on the more important areas of advocacy, and building really good relationships with the clients and customers, and leaving the huge and tiring aspects of being a lawyer such as the extensive documents to the technology, and that’s okay. I definitely think the legal sector has been very receptive of technology and it will continue in the future.

Do you think there is any particular area where technology could be used more widely?

I think there has been major usage of technology in those areas such as smart contracts and even many firms are very proud of the technologies they develop themselves. So definitely in the commercial, and corporate world where you have many documents, and things like mergers and acquisitions, the paper work can be very complicated, you wouldn’t want a team of brilliant people to be sitting pouring over papers, when technology can come in and point out different cause that might have issues within a contract or certain words that are ambiguous, that would be a great use of technology, and it leaves a lot of time to lawyers to do more with the time and skills that they have.

I think one area that might be a little more resistant to technology would be criminal law, I know that there was a move to remove jury trials because it was so complicated having different jurors in different locations, and I know an organisation called Justice, they had several trials with virtual juries, and I really wanted to see one as an audience, and it does work, but it takes a lot of time, so that might be an inefficient way of doing things. So definitely technology would be most useful in the commercial sector for now.

Were there any stand-out features of the software itself that really worked for you and gave you a particular edge when mooting?

I think there were many features such as putting links next to your submissions, and having the second viewer instead of putting tabs and dividers that you refer the judge to, was in my opinion a very well thought of. Especially after having been accustomed to a particular way of mooting, and having to switch to this new system was at first quite stressful. But after having used it, most of us thought that it was a brilliant tool, simply because everything in the software was well thought out. It really is a practical system that was designed, not just for mooting, but as Ross mentioned, it can also be as useful in court. It’s very intuitive to use, there is no difficulty at all.

Do you think the changes brought about are going to stick,post pandemic? Are we going to embrace them and discover we were working primitively before and that there are better ways to work? Or do you think we will go back and revert to the old ways?

I definitely do not think that we are going to revert back to all of the habits that we had. I think the pandemic really forced the entire world to see that the things we thought were so necessary, and we could not live without, we actually could. It’s absolutely possible to have trials virtually, it’s possible to work from home, and get things done. It is possible to move forward, but obviously that has brought about a lot of difficulties for people because it was so unexpected. Such as some people didn’t have a proper place to work at home, and that is true for people from every profession, so suddenly people no longer had the privilege to separate work from home life. But I do think it has been long enough now during covid-19 where we kind of learn how to grapple with these problems. But I do think that by holding trials or hearings remotely, the biggest advantage is that it solves a lot of problems with backlog and also helps with the courts who were closed due to cuts in legal aid or cuts in funding, and that there isn’t even space holding these trials which results in people waiting for so long to simply have their hearings. Having virtual trials really helps solve those problems.

As a student moving forward, do you think there will be any use for Casedo outside of the legal world, perhaps in the student capacity, or anything else?

Actually, a lot of other participants who have done mooting realised that Casedo is really helpful for other student needs too. It would be useful in collating articles, having all of your research materials in one place, having different PDFs together, and things like that.

So it’s really not a software that is just helpful for mooting, and for advocacy or anything like that. But I definitely see that I can use it, and I do use it and a lot of my friends have also been using it.

Brilliant, thank you so much for your time, and congratulations again on your success. Everyone in Casedo is very proud of you, and with your ability to use the software. Hopefully we will see a lot of the changes we discussed stick and a lot more technology in the legal sector.

Thank you so much Milad, it’s been great.

Many thanks to Aishwarya for taking the time to share her opinions on the legal tech landscape, and Casedo’s wider utility for students – we are very excited to see her in practice as a paperless lawyer in the years to come!

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