Tech adoption: How 15th NBA-SBL conference lived up to its bidding
Technological advancement has completely transformed the way law is practised across the globe, and discussions continue to centre on how much more legal practice can benefit from technology.
Increasingly, there are talks about the introduction and use of artificial intelligence in legal practice, especially in legal research, which is expected to further improve the speed, accuracy and quality of legal research as well as help legal practitioners better advise their clients, draft documents or handle cases.
In a 2019 Forbes article “Will A.I. Put Lawyers Out Of Business?”, for instance, Neil Sahota quoted Tom Girardi, renowned civil litigator, as saying, “It may even be considered legal malpractice not to use AI one day. It would be analogous to a lawyer in the late twentieth century still doing everything by hand when this person could use a computer.”
Sitting through the 15th Annual Business Law Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association Section on Business Law (NBA-SBL) at the Harbour Point, Victoria Island, Lagos physical venue of the conference on Wednesday and Thursday, one was left without a doubt that the organisers are fully abreast of technological advances and the challenges and opportunities they present to legal practice.
The theme of the two-day conference, “Re-tooling Businesses for Change: Leveraging the Tech Explosion”, was clearly not accidental.
Olumide Akpata, president, Nigerian Bar Association, said that much in his welcome remarks on Wednesday when he commented that the conference theme is “as topical as it is critical, especially in the context of the extraordinary times which the legal profession and indeed the Nigerian society have faced in the past 18 months”.
He said the choice of the topic erases any lingering doubts about “the continuing relevance of the NBA-SBL to the overall attainment of the aims and objective of the NBA as outlined in the Constitution of the Nigerian bar Association 2015 (as amended)”.
And the SBL, the organisers of the conference, were not going to pay lip service to that well-thought theme. It was a conference of many firsts.
First, the conference took a hybrid form, with virtual and on-site content to ensure maximum reach, which, according to Adeleke Alex-Adedipe, chairman, Conference Planning Committee, “is a testament to how technology marches us forward”.
But unlike the 14th Annual Conference in 2020 which took a virtual format as a stop-gap arrangement in keeping with the COVID-19 health and safety protocols, Alex-Adedipe said the choice of a hybrid form for the 15th Conference was deliberate and strategic.
The hybrid nature of the conference also foretells a new and exciting beginning, demonstrating new possibilities that are available when society embraces innovation, he said.
“On the one hand, it allows us to enjoy the best of both worlds – getting back the irreplaceable value of good old human contact and joining in on the refreshing excitement of borderless interactions. On the other hand, this conference gives us an updated picture of what business rooms increasingly look like,” he said.
For the first time, the breakout sessions held in a silent mode. The about 300 attendees at Harbour Point were connected to the three breakout sessions (a total of six topics) using headsets provided by the organisers. It was a highly innovative approach that allowed the participants to switch between sessions simply by adjusting a button on their headset. The focus achieved by the use of headsets eliminated distracting noise and brought the message of the panel discussions home to the participants.
Another first was the Whova app which enabled participants from anywhere in the world to navigate the event agenda and logistics, even without Wi-Fi or data; access useful information like ridesharing and local attractions through the Community Board; network effectively (plan whom to meet by exploring attendee profiles and sending out messages), and participate in event activities through session likes, comments, ratings, live polling, tweeting, and more.
Alex-Adedipe promised on Wednesday that the conversations at the two-day conference would explore these new realities “in rich and enlightening detail”.
The sessions, no doubt, lived up to the bidding, with exciting topics that include “Tech Innovation and E- Governance”, “The Future of Digital Financial Services & Financial Inclusion”, “Internet and Broadband Connectivity – Good or Bad?”, “Nigerian Innovators & Nigerian Solutions”, “Global Tech Trends in Law Practice Management”, “Ride Hailing Platforms: The Green, Yellow and Red Lights”, “Can Tech Help Fix Nigeria’s Healthcare Challenges?”, and “Alternative Currencies in The Digital Age”.
Other topics include “Technology and International Arbitration”, “Techpreneurs: Building Nigeria’s Talent Pipeline”, and “Technology and the future of elections in Nigeria: E-Voting, Mail Voting; Are we ready?”.
There was also a panel session on “SBL Innovation Hub: The App Challenge (Products and Services)”, which was premised on the need to strongly support innovators and entrepreneurs in the quest to develop technological solutions that can potentially accelerate sustainable economic and social growth in our emerging digital economy. It was meant to showcase Nigerian developed solutions and help to develop a pipeline of Nigerian techpreneurs.