The traditionally conservative legal market can be likened by software developers to a juicy ripe fruit, ready for the eating. When it comes to Legal Technology, law firms in Nigeria and many countries around the world had been slow to evolve, mostly due to the need to carry on with the familiar. This is an attempt to assert a continued control over existing processes, but technology doesn’t care about that need, as we have experienced an increased level of disruption gripping the legal space in recent years.
According to Wikipedia; Legal technology traditionally referred to the application of technology and software to help law firms with practice management, document storage, billing, accounting and electronic discovery. Since 2011, Legal Tech has evolved to be associated more with technology startups disrupting the practice of law by giving people access to online software that reduces or in some cases eliminates the need to consult a lawyer, or by connecting people with lawyers more efficiently through online marketplaces and lawyer-matching websites.
As much as we want to evolve in our operational and legal project management as lawyers, we will experience radical disruptions in the near future, with complete solutions and systems getting uprooted, to be replaced with more technology.
The legal industry is widely seen to be conservative and traditional, with Law Technology Today noting that “in 50 years, the customer experience at most law firms has barely changed”.
Law firms could be seen to be risk-averse, as a minor technological error could have significant financial consequences for a client.This doesn’t mean law firm managers must all neglect technology altogether, it simply means that they should be more aware of the correct technological solutions to deploy and have the requisite knowledge and skill to operate such innovations in other to grow their firm’s practice.
Becoming technologically competent means spending time and resources in achieving this; there are many lawyers looking for cutting-edge ways to compete with technology, due to obvious challenges at their respective law firms. The exponential growth in the volume of documents (mostly email) that must be reviewed for litigation cases has greatly accelerated the adoption of technology used in eDiscovery, with elements of machine language and artificial intelligence being incorporated and cloud-based services being adopted by law firms.
ROSS AI from IBM Watson, a research solution which is very unique due to its precision and full access to legal resources, has been adopted by a few top international law firms and is being considered for deployment for American law school students without charge. This development is fantastic for the students who will now learn a faster and more precise method of research. IBM Watsons market strategy got me thinking about the level of competition that will emerge for international lawyers.
African lawyers, for example, are still evolving their use of technology at different levels of skill and deployment; the odds are largely against the demographic with less access to innovative technologies. How will they compete? How will they address the high levels of client turnover when clients increasingly seek out more efficient and technologically savvy lawyers from other countries to handle bigger deals? The answer dwells in strategy and proper implementation of technological innovations.
There will be an obvious divide in the competence level between Lawyers with higher levels of skill in technology and those without it. This is why there needs to be more technological solutions developed by Africans for the African market.
Investment in Legal Tech is predominantly focused in the United States with more than $254 million invested in 2014 in the United States, however, there is significant growth worldwide. Nigeria is on the verge of a tech revolution, but the competence level of its software developers needs to be put to the test, through testing and large-scale deployment in sectors of interest like the Legal and Retail sectors, which both boast of a large demand for solutions.
The Government also has a role to play in ensuring that productive sectors are able to evolve and compete in the international market. We are yet to see a Local Content Legislation in Nigeria for technology creation. This will allow more tech firms to evolve and grow at a healthier level.
Nubianette Consulting provides a variety of Data, Asset, Finance and Practice Management Solutions for the legal market; currently, there is a larger playing field for Small, Medium and Large law firms to compete effectively through the adoption of technology in their practice. We can help you with a comprehensive IT infrastructure audit and then work with you on a strategy for implementing the most suitable solutions to improve your practice.