How Technology is Empowering the Courts and Justice System

Mahesh Rengaswamy
Senior Director of Growth & Strategy at Thomson Reuters
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Speaker 1 (00:15):

Your listening to the Tech Tables podcast, a weekly Q and A podcast dedicated to interviewing industry leaders from across the world, ranging from startups to fortune 500 companies. Mixing it up each week with topics ranging from design and product innovation to IOT and industry 4.0. Let's do this.

Joe Toste (00:34):

We're back for another week in the world of Tech Tables and me Joe Toste, [inaudible 00:00:37] behind the scenes on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. There, you could even message me questions for future guests coming on the show. Today, we're going to shift our focus to the public sector on the courts and justice side with Mahesh, senior director of growth and strategy at Thomson Reuters. Huge thank you to Mahesh for taking the time to come on the show and meet with me today. But that's quite enough for me without further ado, I'm thrilled to welcome Mahesh to chat all things around public sector technology and courts and justice. Hey, awesome. Well, thank you. Welcome back to the Tech Tables podcast. Super stoked you're on today.

Mahesh Rengaswamy (01:07):

Hey Joe. Nice to meet you. Thanks for having me on here.

Joe Toste (01:11):

Love it. So let's kick off today a little bit about yourself and your background at Thomson Reuters on the public sector side. Let's start there.

Mahesh Rengaswamy (01:18):

Sure. Thanks a lot. Yeah. Background, it's a long, long way. I started out as a chemical engineer and I'm working at Thomson Reuters right now for public safety and courts and justice. So it's been a long, interesting journey for me personally. But yeah, one thing led to the other and found myself in the public sector space and just stuck with it and really enjoy what I'm doing right now.

Joe Toste (01:39):

That's awesome. So for the audience and I put myself in that boat, I didn't really know too much about the public sector before talking with you. Can you unpack that a little bit for us?

Mahesh Rengaswamy (01:52):

Well, I mean, very simply put the public sector, you got three branches of government, right? You've got the executive branch and then you've got the legislative branch and then you've got the judiciary. That's sort of the justice branch, if you will. Those are the real three branches of the government. And then you've got agencies between there and everywhere else. And my focus has primarily been on the courts and justice side of the world. And if you think about what that means, the courts and the justice side of the world are responsible for holding up the rule of law. Meaning there are laws and they're responsible for making sure that everyone's following the laws. And they have the various actors in that sort of spectrum all the way from law enforcement, which is the police to the courts, that provide services to make sure we are behaving.

Joe Toste (02:34):

Yeah, that's really great. So thank you for laying that foundation. How do you bring an outstanding experience to the courts and justice system today? And what do you think is missing?

Mahesh Rengaswamy (02:43):

If you think about the actors for a minute, Joe, you got everyone from the citizens to lawyers, to law enforcement, to prosecutors. There are a lot of actors in that sort of justice world, if you will. An outstanding experience looks like making access to justice equal and fair to everybody. You'll be really surprised how difficult it is for people to just get access to justice. You and I are probably afraid of going to the court for any reason. And then you have technology gaps that exist, there are socioeconomic status that is a problem which really do not allow people to get the right access to justice and get their disputes resolved. It is not easy in today's world.

Joe Toste (03:21):

Great. Okay. So from a very high level, I was just going through Thomson Reuters website. There's a product called Westlaw Edge. There's a lot of data that you could harness and surface for lawyers very quickly today. Just from a high level, how's Thomson Reuters using AI with Westlaw today?

Mahesh Rengaswamy (03:37):

So just a little bit about Westlaw Edge and Westlaw itself and what it does. Westlaw law is based on case precedents, right? Whatever happened yesterday is what's going to be used to fight your case today. So Westlaw provides a plethora of information about all of the case law from the past that lawyers, judges, everyone use to move forward with cases. Westlaw Edge applies an AI layer on top of it. So it is going to tell you that you're not citing the correct case. You may have a better chance of winning this case if you cited this other authority over here. So it makes the job of a litigator much more easy. And it saves a ton of time because today they flip through books or they have to do Google searches to figure out what authorities they need to use to make their case. So it really adds an edge to their work. And you're talking about efficiency gains north of about 50 to 60% on a day to day basis for a litigator. So it's pretty phenomenal.

Joe Toste (04:26):

That is pretty phenomenal. My only experience thinking about this, it's going to be the law class I took in college and Suits. Suits on TV. And they would go to a giant room with a library and somehow have every-

Mahesh Rengaswamy (04:39):

That's exactly right. That's exactly right. The funny story is Thomson Reuters too has that's a hundred million dollar business for Thomson Reuters annually printing books. We have our own printing press.

Joe Toste (04:48):

Oh wow. And that's pretty crazy. So I guess Westlaw Edge is probably the new reality in Suits. I assume you don't want to be going to the library to be looking at what's the best case.

Mahesh Rengaswamy (05:02):

No. No. Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, that delivery is going to come to the iPad and it's going to be mobile. It's going to make it so much more easier for people to interact.

Joe Toste (05:11):

Love it. When it comes to COVID-19 and the justice system, we were talking about before, but as a society, we're at a major inflection point when it comes to having virtual court cases. You mentioned a good point, it's very ceremonial that we would meet in person, for example, with the jury trial. How are the courts starting to transition to a remote landscape today?

Mahesh Rengaswamy (05:31):

Yeah. Starting March I believe the justice system was picked up and turned on its head. That's really what happened. They had to innovate literally within a span of the last three months, globally. I would say that countries in other countries have been a lot more advanced with respect to this compared to the United States, sadly. We haven't adopted technology like the way we should have. But COVID-19 has forced everyone to change, adopt new technology. Web conferencing was something that was very rare in the courts, now remote appearances are the norm and it's expected. They're able to share evidence virtually, they're able to conduct jury trials now. There was a trial in Texas where a judge actually select a jury. It never happens. Because it needed to be a physical presence. You need to go to a physical room to do that. That ceremonial aspect of it has completely gone away. And remote now is the name of the game in the courts. And there's still more innovation to be done, but I believe they are now changing and this COVID-19 has forced them to make that leap.

Joe Toste (06:30):

Okay. So when it comes to COVID-19 in the justice system, we as a society are at an inflection point. We were talking about this beforehand. When it comes to having virtual court cases, you mentioned a very good point that it's very ceremonial that we meet in person, example, the jury trial. How are the courts starting to transition to a remote landscape today?

Mahesh Rengaswamy (06:49):

COVID-19 picked up the courts in the justice system and turned them on their head. They had to adapt almost immediately because of the social distancing aspects. And you really couldn't show up to court. So the ceremonial aspect of it was you went to a physical space to be heard and for your dispute to be resolved. Well, that is no longer the case. You cannot go to court, which means courts have had to reinvent and they've had to adapt. Judges have had to get comfortable with using technology like zoom, like teams, WebEx, whatever have you, to conduct virtual hearings like we're talking right now in a virtual scenario. And the challenge, if you will, from a technology perspective, I think they've overcome that literally in three months. Other countries have been much more ahead in terms of use of technology compared to the US but this has forced a very rapid change in a very short period of time.

Joe Toste (07:36):

That's great. And what would you say is the biggest, I mean, I imagine it's not technology, but maybe the culture change to have to go from a physical in-person to more of a remote type of model. What are you kind of seeing on the ground right now? Is it more cultural than it is technology?

Mahesh Rengaswamy (07:56):

It is a cultural change. It is definitely a cultural change. I think we've had the technology for a long time, we just didn't use it. But now that we've been forced to use it, the culture has evolved and probably the most rapid change. And I'm sure change is happening everywhere else, but for me who has been in this industry, how judges have rapidly come to understand and appreciate the ability to conduct hearings remotely, they're sitting at home, they don't have to go to the courthouse. They can put a background up like I have right now. Makes it very easy for them.

Mahesh Rengaswamy (08:28):

Another interesting thing that I will mention is two parties who don't want to be in the same room, don't have to be in the same room. It changes the dynamic of the conversation completely, and we're all comfortable. So family law cases going forward are all going to be probably conducted remotely because custody issues, divorce issues, they're all going to be conducted remotely. So there's some very interesting changes that have happened in the last three months.

Joe Toste (08:51):

Yeah, no, I can definitely imagine that. And I know they were trying to, at least here in Santa Barbara, they were trying to reopen the courts physically. And actually I think two or three of the judges got COVID-19 and they shut that back down.

Mahesh Rengaswamy (09:04):

It's going to happen.

Joe Toste (09:04):

So maybe Thomson Reuters has got to come to Santa Barbara.

Mahesh Rengaswamy (09:08):

Would love to. Would love to.

Joe Toste (09:11):

Yeah. Get them on the virtual train. So part of your job is implementing cloud solutions for the courts today. Talk about the different types of cloud solutions that Thomson Reuters has in the marketplace.

Mahesh Rengaswamy (09:21):

So our cloud solutions range, pretty much we have information products. So this is information products like Westlaw. It is an information product. We have solutions called Clear that support investigative capabilities for the law enforcement, for prosecutors that's a cloud-based offering. And then beyond that, we have a sort of ERP like capabilities, what we offer courts from a court case management standpoint, that's based on Microsoft Azure. We have some solutions that are sitting on top of Amazon stack on the web services, [inaudible 00:09:49] web services side of things. So it's a broad range of capabilities. I would say we offer a lot of information products on the cloud and we offer ERP type solutions on the cloud. Those are our two focus areas.

Joe Toste (10:00):

That's great. So let's unpack this for the audience. What is the tech stack look like? Obviously I'm hearing Microsoft pretty heavy. Yeah. Why don't we dive into the tech stack?

Mahesh Rengaswamy (10:08):

Yeah, sure. I mean, it varies by by solution, right? So if you're talking about an information product, you're talking about a blob storage, right? You're talking about massive amounts of data that need to be searched very rapidly. So you have a very different tech stack that is very light on the top, but heavy in the middle layer and a very stretched out database, if you will, amorphous database capabilities.

Mahesh Rengaswamy (10:27):

And then on the ERP side of things, you're talking about a typically a J2EE stack is what we use. We found that as the evolution is happened and we have to deliver a completely zero footprint web-based application to our customers, we moved to the web, the J2EE stack, and we found that to be a lot more appealing. We use sequel SQL in the backend many times. Oracle's difficult. There's Oracle people out there, sorry, but Oracle is difficult to implement. So we sort of moved over to the SQL server in terms of relational database. And then we use Amazon services wherever applicable. So it's sort of a broad range of technologies, but I think we've centered on really something on the Microsoft capabilities now on the Azure platform.

Joe Toste (11:07):

Got it. So my Oracle contacts are really going to be hating me for this podcast, for the SAP podcast I did.

Mahesh Rengaswamy (11:15):

Telling the truth. It's just, it's a great relational database, but it is a beast to feed and care for. I'm sorry.

Joe Toste (11:23):

Yeah. I'm personally very familiar with SQL as I was actually the first language that I learned out of college, which is kind of funny. That's basically my claim to fame by the way. So what's your favorite entrepreneurial project that you've been working on at Thomson Reuters.

Mahesh Rengaswamy (11:39):

So the last three months ever since COVID hit, I had an opportunity to do a product launch and come up with some solutions for the virtual court space that we were talking about earlier. How do we bring about an experience where lawyers, litigants, if you will, can easily interact with the courts in a virtual environment. So it's a combination experience using video technology, ability for them to not have to rely on paper so they can share evidence digitally and then ultimately get their case heard in a very fair manner. So it's delivering that end to end experience. And yeah, the last three months have been a blur for me. And that's what we've been working on. Probably the most exciting thing that I've done my whole life.

Joe Toste (12:18):

I love it. That's awesome. Do you know how I came up with that question by the way?

Mahesh Rengaswamy (12:22):

I don't know. Where did you come up with that question?

Joe Toste (12:25):

Shout out, shout out to my guy, Rom Ready. Love him.

Mahesh Rengaswamy (12:27):

Exactly. Exactly. He knows the secret. He knows. I told him I was doing something.

Joe Toste (12:32):

Yeah, he didn't give me any details. He was just like, hey, there's something cool happening. And I was like, What, that's all you're going to give me?

Mahesh Rengaswamy (12:40):

That's awesome. That's awesome. This is phenomenal. To meet the needs of our justice system right now, we needed something innovative that was going to be easy to use and deliver the capability for people to access the courts. And yeah, it's been three months, but I don't think Thomson Reuters has done anything this fast. So we were able to actually go from concept to product launch in three months. It's been absolutely amazing journey.

Joe Toste (13:04):

I love that. I love that. And real quick shout out to Rom [inaudible 00:13:08].

Mahesh Rengaswamy (13:08):

Hey Rom.

Joe Toste (13:09):

Yeah. Hey Rom, we shot the CIO's new mission, making IT a part of this strategic conversation in corporate strategy, actually in New York, which is really fun. So that's episode six, for those of you who are interested in that. That's great. And I'm just, I'm on the last piece that you're talking about with your entrepreneurial project. Are there any agile, any lessons that might've, that you've seen in the last three months? You said you're having a ton of fun. You're probably moving pretty fast.

Mahesh Rengaswamy (13:35):

Yeah. Yep. Yep. Two things. Simple, simple, simple. Keep it simple. Second thing, relentless communication. Your team's got to know exactly what's going on at any given point of time. So we were all able to run tasks individually. And I think those are the two things I learned.

Joe Toste (13:53):

I love it. There's actually an acronym called kiss. Have you heard if it?

Mahesh Rengaswamy (13:56):

Oh yeah. Yep. I've heard of KISS. Yep.

Joe Toste (13:58):

Keep it simple stupid.

Mahesh Rengaswamy (14:00):

And it works.

Joe Toste (14:01):

And it works.

Mahesh Rengaswamy (14:02):

It works.

Joe Toste (14:03):

Okay. So let's jump into the 62nd Tech Table segment. Three questions all in under 60 seconds. I don't know why I say that anymore because no one does it in 60 seconds. It's just, I got to come up, season two we'll come up with something better than this. Okay. So I have one to three. You've seen them in advance, but I'm going to flip them because we were just talking about Microsoft. So let's go Teams versus Zoom. Why?

Mahesh Rengaswamy (14:30):

Zoom for now. It's easy to use. They made it accessible to just about everybody. It meets the needs of the least common denominator, but Microsoft is going to win ultimately over time because they're going to get it right. It's just going to take them a little bit of time.

Joe Toste (14:42):

Oh my goodness. I would have just lost this bet. I'm so glad Rom didn't bet me on this. I would have lost a lot of money. I would have bet all of the chips that you going to say Teams.

Mahesh Rengaswamy (14:52):

No. They're not there yet.

Joe Toste (14:54):

Wow, impressive. Okay. How did you get into the public sector?

Mahesh Rengaswamy (14:58):

Yeah. Growing up, people person, loved the idea of consulting. Love the idea of talking to people and helping solve problems. That's really where it started. Joined KPMG. Yeah. First job was with the Long Island Railroad of all places. So it was a public sector dealing with things that you and I will probably just go like, what is that a problem? It started there. And then from there somehow got plugged into public safety, which is exciting. Law enforcement, helping law enforcement solve crime and things of that nature. Then been stuck to the mission man since then. It's been a great experience. And when you see what you've done actually improve someone's life, you go like, holy cow, this is real.

Joe Toste (15:41):

I love that. I love that. Okay. So favorite Netflix show?

Mahesh Rengaswamy (15:44):

I'm a sucker for Marvel. I would say Punisher.

Joe Toste (15:47):

Okay. Okay. I thought you were going to say, I don't watch Netflix or someone. I thought you were going to say Tiger King.

Mahesh Rengaswamy (15:54):

I haven't seen Tiger King just yet, to be honest.

Joe Toste (15:56):

Okay. Okay. I've had a couple of guests in a row say Tiger King and I died on this spot laughing.

Mahesh Rengaswamy (16:03):

No intention to watch either.

Joe Toste (16:06):

I'm in the same boat, but my wife just she's in the same boat too. But every time I go on Netflix, it's just this giant banner and the hooks are just so good. I'm like, oh man, I kind of want to see it. I kind of don't.

Mahesh Rengaswamy (16:18):

I'm sure I, yeah, I couldn't do it. I couldn't do it.

Joe Toste (16:22):

Cool. Awesome. And so where can people find you? Where do you hang out? LinkedIn. Twitter.

Mahesh Rengaswamy (16:26):

Yeah. And I'm on LinkedIn. I got a presence on LinkedIn. Twitter not so much though. I really haven't learned how to use Twitter very well, to be very honest with you. But most of my posts and everything else about what we're doing are on LinkedIn. Yep.

Joe Toste (16:40):

Awesome. Love it. Well, thanks for coming on the show today and super stoked what you have going on with some of these entrepreneurial projects.

Mahesh Rengaswamy (16:47):

Terrific. Thanks Joe. Great talking with you.

Speaker 1 (16:50):

If you're interested in seeing what Nagarro, a high-end technology solutions company to some of the world's leading organizations can do for your business, you can email Joe at joe.toste@nagarro.com. J-O-E dot T-O-S-T-E @ Nagarra.com or message Joe on LinkedIn. For all information on Nagarro, check out nagarro.com. That's N-A-G-A-R-R-O.com. You've been listening to the Tech Tables podcast. To make sure you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player. If you have an iPhone we'd love for you to open the Apple podcast app and leave a review. Thank you so much for listening. To catch more Tech Tables episodes, you can go to techtablespodcast.com. And to learn more about our sponsor, please visit nagarro.com. That's N-A-G-A-R-R-O.com. And of course you can find Joe Toste, your podcast host, on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram. That's Joe Toste. T-O-S-T-E. Thanks for listening.

Joe Toste
Joe Toste
Host of TechTables Podcast

Host of TechTables 🎙- Conversations with Top Technology Leaders