Anoosha Shaigan is an international human rights and technology lawyer and a certified legislative drafter, having worked on various legal, policy and political reforms in human rights, international law, gender justice and legal innovation for over 13 years. She currently serves as the Vice President and Editor of Courting The Law, Pakistan’s first legal news and analysis portal with various award-winning initiatives that leverage technology to improve access to justice. She has worked with various government ministries, judicial bodies and international organizations in reviewing Pakistan’s commitments to international treaty obligations. She has also had the honour of being elected as a member of the Governance and Accountability Council of the Global Shapers Community of the World Economic Forum. Nominated as a Fellow of the American Council of Young Political Leaders by the US Department of State, she was appointed as the honorary Deputy Secretary of State in Indiana during the 2016 US Presidential Election. Ms Shaigan has also authored the Legislative Brief on the Right To Information law for the Parliament of Pakistan and frequently conducts legal tech training for senior judiciary in Pakistan.
You’re Vice-President and Editor of Courting The Law. Tell us more about this.
I currently serve as the Editor and Vice President of Courting The Law, Pakistan’s leading multi-dimensional law and justice initiative serving an underserved population through various award-winning digital platforms. My work aims to leverage technologies and technology-enabled platforms to enhance access to justice, encourage legal discourse, increase accountability, promote legal services, lobby for legislative reforms and digitalize human rights. As an experienced legal technologist and recognized industry expert, I also frequently get invited to conduct legal-tech assessments for various public and private sector initiatives and review applications and platforms for human-centered legal design and scalable online business models. The winning combination of a technology, technology-based platform and operational model is one that reduces costs and makes legal service delivery speedier, cost effective and less complex. For instance, encryption tools on one of our apps allow people to seek legal advice anonymously and confidentially in cases of domestic violence. Similarly, we have seen that artificial intelligence is more suited to the civil E-court procedure where repetitive tasks need to be automatized and the certainty of applying precedent needs to be ensured.
Based on such legal innovations and solutions, Courting The Law has been acknowledged as the best legal news and analysis platform from Pakistan as well as the most innovative human rights platform from Pakistan. My work on digitalizing human rights has also been highlighted at various international forums, including the World Economic Forum at Davos. I am very proud of these recognitions as they not only acknowledge my entrepreneurial contribution to law reform and legal innovation, they also reflect my organization’s social impact in enhancing access to justice and its economic impact in creating livelihoods for lawyers.
What inspired your interest in legal technology?
Hailing from an underdeveloped Global South, I have always envisioned myself in a profession of service to my country and my community and I feel that there is no better way for me to affect change than through the law. The opportunity to work alongside people who have dedicated their lives to the law, including my late father, has always strengthened my commitment to amplify socio-political development and legislative reform. Despite technological advances, putting people first remains the key to justice in underdeveloped countries, that is why I believe that all laws and policies must have human-centered design.
I aspire to serve an underserved population through my work, by raising awareness about their rights on one hand and highlighting the work done by lawyers on the other. And in doing so, I believe in leveraging technology for improving access to justice. I have also recently pursued an LLM degree in Technology, Media and Telecommunications Law from Queen Mary UK so I have been keeping abreast of the latest developments in technology and human rights, both from a digital rights perspective and a commercial awareness angle. This has further deepened my commitment to institutional accountability and human rights advocacy through digitalization.
What’s the status of legal technology innovation in Pakistan?
A development challenge that we are facing in Pakistan is that the legal system is slow, complex and expensive. Furthermore, not only is it difficult for ordinary citizens to access legal help, but the 150,000 lawyers that we do have are also restricted by law to advertise themselves. As the Founding Member of the first Legal Informatics Committee at Lahore High Court Bar Association (Asia’s oldest and biggest bar with over 100,000 members) and a Chapter Organizer for Legal Hackers Lahore working at the intersection of legal tech solutions, I aim to amplify the digitalization of human rights and access to E-justice.
I feel that human rights challenges in online spaces during the pandemic have gained even more prominence than ever before. Some of the areas that I have been working on with various organizations and networks include the right to information, ethical tech, mandatory human rights due diligence, business and human rights, dual use of technologies involving militarization and commercialization, online harassment and defamation, cybercrime, online content regulation, access to internet through modern telecommunications, consumer protection laws in E-commerce, online dispute resolution, privacy, data protection, and E-courts to name a few.
An exciting new legal tech realm is that of space. As Pakistan’s first specialist space tech lawyer, I feel that my prior experience in international law structures, combined with my contemporary LLM research on the commercialization of space telecom, can assist the executive and military administrations as well as commercial entities and regulators with understanding contemporary legal issues and exploring new avenues of legal tech. Pakistan’s Space Program is expected to be operational by 2040, however, the country still lacks a consolidated legal framework with regard to space telecom infrastructure and access. As a result, we lag in our international commitments towards developing and regulating space telecom infrastructure through public-private partnerships. Pakistan also hosts the sixth largest population in the world, which is alarming for internet connectivity because the country has the lowest internet penetration rate among its regional neighbors. Satellite connectivity and space technologies can provide greater network coverage.
What advice do you have for those currently aspiring to a career in law practice or legal technology?
Academic grades are not a measure of caliber or success. They can reflect self-discipline and ensure that there is a method to your madness but they do not necessarily equip you for the experiential legal profession which is dynamic and full of grey areas and requires more than just the ability to comply with existing norms. Therefore, learning transferable skills, relearning solutions through community experiences, and unlearning compliance mindsets is important to make legal tech more innovative in order to digitalize access to justice, automatize legal service delivery, reduce costs and streamline complex processes for clients, litigants and citizens.
In other words, think legal, act digital.