• Friday, July 19, 2024
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Future of Nigeria’s justice system lies in complete automation – Experts

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The Nigerian justice system would take its position as the biggest in Africa by complete automation of the entire process of justice delivery, experts say.

Currently, law firms in South African, Kenya and Egypt are seen as leading the continent in terms of size and financial valuation.

Experts at a BusinessDay event tagged ‘Disruptive Technology and the Future Realities of Legal Business’ said the justice system faces disruption from alternative legal service providers (ALSPs) led by the so-called Big Four firms – Deloitte, KPMG, PwC and EY.

Alternative legal service providers are niche companies that specialise in providing such high-demand legal services as document review, contract management, litigation support, discovery and electronic discovery, contract lawyers and staffing, investigation support and legal research, and IP management.

The ALSPs are playing a bigger role in providing legal services. Businesses are now more often turning to these innovative companies for many routine legal services, and law firms are even outsourcing certain jobs to ALSPs that would be too expensive and time-consuming to do in-house. This new trend offers a lot of promise for paralegals who may be looking to own and run their own independent businesses.

Demand for ALSPs is driven by demand for more efficient in-house counsel services from traditional law firms, Adedoyin Pearse, company secretary and general counsel, Siemens Nigeria Limited, said.

“And the practice rules have also been liberalised such that it is not just the traditional law firms that can provide legal services,” Pearse said. “ALSPs can also do this even better.”

The threat of disruption has since seen law firms in the United Kingdom especially transforming themselves and creating ALSPs as well. Even courts are not left out as some are planning on ways to integrate video conferencing to reduce issues of incessant adjournment, said John Edokpolo, lead commercial attorney, Microsoft EMEA.

“We are seeing a lot of collaboration and co-creation; a lot of law firms are working with ALSPs and also outsourcing to the ALSPs. We have firms that are fully into legal outsourcing,” Edokpolo said.

While the judicial system in Nigeria is generally perceived as late adopters of technology, Bidemi Olumide, partner, AO2 Law and Taxaide, said a few law firms are already leveraging technology and making legal services easier and more convenient for consumers.

For instance, Taxaide has through automation democratised tax information for clients, he said.
“We also automated enforcement,” Olumide said. “If you don’t have a process that uses technology to collect evidence, you haven’t started at all.”

Another area lawyers are not tapping, Olumide said, is in data science. Law firms are custodians of different information from a wide array of clients they have to deal with.

Only by probing the data in their custody would law firms be able to provide better and more satisfactory services to clients whose needs are evolving digitally, he said. And the data must also be stored in such a way that it is easily accessible and relatable.

Oyindamola Oyeduntan, legal adviser and company secretary, Heirs Holding, said providing easy access to data isn’t enough. Law firms should also be able to provide interpretation that aids the client in making informed decision.

“As we continue to evolve, you have to start thinking about where are you are storing your data,” said Abayomi Adedayo, general counsel, MainOne.

MainOne has the largest data centre in West Africa.

Collins Onuegbu, founder and executive vice-chairman, Signal Alliance, a Nigerian IT service provider and an end-to-end system integrator, said while automation is important, the legal services space must address issues of scale.

“I have spoken to lawyers who don’t think they are doing business. If you have the largest law firm in Nigeria having only 100 staff, your capacity for tech is small,” Onuegbu said.

“How does the law firm define itself? Look at the size of the largest law firms in South Africa and that of Nigeria. If the industry is serving only 5 percent of the population, then the capacity is very low,” he said.

 

FRANK ELEANYA