Technology and the Law: How Things Will Change

It is no more news that every industry today has witnessed one form of disruption in the past century as technology becomes a predominant part of human existence. The legal profession considered noble in many parts of the world still appears immune to the rampage of disruptive technology. It is not hard to see why the profession has turned slower than others. The legal profession is held up by adherence to rules and tradition as the foundation for decision making; the principle of ‘stare decisis’ places precedence on old accepted authority while holding novel ideas to slow, painful scrutiny.

However, like every profession, new tools must be introduced to accommodate changes around it. The advance of technology in the 21st century calls for a retool of the way we do and teach law in Nigeria. There is now an urgent need to retool our legal teachers in our citadels of learning. Emerging fields such as nano-medicine, genetic engineering, cryonics and the rest all have legal ramifications and implications for users and the society.

The onus here rests on the gate-keepers of Nigerian legal education: the Council of Legal Education to incorporate and prepare Nigerian lawyers for the technologically-driven environment.

The legal profession is one that is heavily reliant on documentation. There have been individual efforts to digitize legal documentation. The means of storage and access to data and files today have moved rapidly away from physical handling to the cloud. Organizations today have embraced electronic storage as today’s businesses go lean on costs and physical storage spaces. If managers of today’s law firms must join this trend, they must begin to look at the law firm as a business and not merely as a path to subsistence.

Using in-house and publicly available data, today’s lawyer, with the help of readily-available tools, could predict the next trend

Following the ability to communicate with the client and the consumers of the data and information is the ability to pore through data and gain insights. It is generally accepted today that data is more valuable than oil. The law profession is not exempted from such usage. Using in-house and publicly available data, today’s lawyer with the help of readily-available tools could predict the next trend, the likely spot of the next homicide or bankruptcy case. What this does for the lawyer and law firm of tomorrow is to be at a vantage point to create and deliver value for the potential client at a cost-efficient fee. It also reduces the cases of ‘misdiagnosis’ or flying blind. This also raises the need for today’s lawyers to rethink their services as not just legal services but business intelligence solutions.

With the surge of technology, law firms and lawyers of the future may already be late to this party. Haste is required to make these changes. Technology is here and it does not appear to favour any particular profession despite how special legal practitioners view the legal profession.

For its reputation as a high-stakes environment, those who wish to lead the practice simply cannot be reluctant to the big data revolution, without the risk of being left behind.

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By Chinedu Okoro and Enyioma Madubuike | Chinedu and Enyioma are the producers of the BTLP podcast

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