Do SA lawyers need to change their thinking about technology?

I feel privileged to have met Professor Richard Susskind OBE. Amongst other things he is President of the Society of Computers and Law; IT Adviser to Lord Chief Justice (in the UK); and a renowned author and speaker. Of the many books that he has written, all with a similar theme, I commend at least 3 to you. There was one, he wrote a few years ago entitled, “The End of Lawyers? Rethinking the nature of legal services”, which particularly resonated. There is another called, “Tomorrow’s lawyers: An introduction to your future”, and his very latest book is entitled, “The Future of the Profession: How Technology will transform the work of Human Experts.” All of these, and others are readily available via Amazon.

Do you detect his theme, and my interest, of course? It is technology and how the use of technology could and should be changing how lawyers think and work. I want to share a quote from the first book that I mentioned, “All lawyers must ask themselves, with their hands on their hearts, what elements of their current workload could be undertaken differently by using alternative methods of working”. Of course, I would totally agree with that and there are so many instances within the normal working life of a lawyer when technology, or a different method than the traditional norm, would positively affect their working lives and practices, and therefore that of their clients. In my case, as everyone knows, it is all about using eDiscovery technology to assist with their cases, be they litigation, arbitration, competition or internal or regulatory investigations. Of course we are not merely referring to lawyers in private practice, but also GC’s and in-house legal teams. I have written many posts so far on the use of eDiscovery technology so I won’t repeat what I have already said but will simply expand on a few points. 

A modern lawyer, who is perhaps more comfortable with technology than others, will adapt not only to the thinking but also the methods of using eDiscovery technology quickly. In my post about keyword searching I spoke of how lawyers need to apply their minds at an early stage, consulting with their client and service providers to formulate an effective list of words and their context and positioning. A modern lawyer will recognise that he does not have to look at every single document in a case, and that he can use technology to filter out those that are unlikely to be of assistance or relevance. A modern lawyer will realise that using technology effectively in cases will reduce time and costs, setting him apart from those of his less enlightened brethren. A modern lawyer will have listened to his clients, the marketplace, researched the happenings in his field in other parts of the world, and be alive to different forms of assessing his fees. A modern lawyer will “sell” these innovative notions to his clients and potential clients …….and win more clients!

None of this is “rocket science” but it is about change and innovation. In previous posts I have made it very clear that I welcome change and I love innovation within the legal profession. Given my passion for technology to add to this has, all, led me to note and admire the work of LexNove here in SA. Kyle Torrington and Andrew Taylor are two bright young, hungry, intelligent, and committed lawyers and entrepreneurs who are challenging the norm. Their use of an online platform, a virtual boardroom, and fixed fees are all examples of technology and ideas driving down costs and finding a new way. Well done guys and I am very happy to have met you and to be collaborating with you.

Look also at Graeme Wilson’s work and his unusually named law firm Whipping the Cat - my recollection is that it is a term that alludes to working efficiently, with skill but as lean as possible (?) - another example of innovative methods of working. Is it perhaps no surprise, therefore, that both of these companies are ones which can see what I am doing and why?

Lets go back to the beginning of this post and also my own working life. I worked in law firms as a litigation fee earner for many many years. I worked in the traditional way but then I became excited when I saw the technological impact on what I had been doing. Richard Susskind’s books follow the theme. He is an expert and he knows what he is talking about - give them a read.