There are things which every lawyer is expected to know in order to make good headway in the practice of the law. It is not enough now to say that one has been called to the Bar and at such, that you can just open up a law chamber and start your practice. That would have easily obtainable in the time of the brick-and-mortar law firms, when anything goes. Now, the world has gone global and every lawyer will have to learn to key into the global trends that has swept through the legal stratosphere over the years.
Stemming from the above assertion, it is worthy to note that it would be a laudable achievement for every lawyer to learn to key into the trends that has swept across the legal world in all the different parts of the world. These are as follows:
Being technology savvy.
The practice of the law has definitely gone beyond the physical and transcended greatly into the technological. It is not enough now in the legal clime under operation in the different parts of the world that a lawyer can just hope to do his/her work using books and physical precedents and processes. That is for the bygone days of the brick-and-mortar law practice.
In the legal clime being operated in today’s world, everything has gone digital: from the communications between lawyers/firms and their client(s), to communications with other persons across the world, to the service of court processes; to the advent of e-discovery; to the resolution of disputes between disputing parties across various stratospheres in the world of business and dispute resolution; to the writing of legal communiqué between lawyers and other parties with whom they transact business with. . . the knowledge of technology is something that every lawyer practicing in today’s world will have to learn to key into or else be left by the wayside as someone preferably from the stone ages.
It is not enough for the lawyer(s) to say that there are secretaries and paralegals that can do the needful for them; it is not acceptable for them to say that they are legal professionals, and at such, have no business learning anything that has to do with Information Communications systems. A lawyer who refuses to key into the fast-sweeping technological trends and who refuses to learn to use technology in his/her work, is asking _ nay; begging_ to be left behind at the altar of mediocrity in favor of the twenty-first century lawyer who has become a jack-of-all-trade and has to know everything there is to know because it will be of immense benefit to his/her work as a legal Practitioner.
Try to imagine a lawyer who has gone on Christmas vacation with his family down to his hometown in the village in one of the rural areas of Nigeria. Per chance one of his important clients contacts him via email, in need of something urgent which the lawyer will have to unknot for him online. If that lawyer is un-technology savvy; one of those who has an undue reliance on the work of underpaid secretaries, what then is he to do? For he is in the village, and most villages lack the necessary technology-savvy persons to handle such affairs? Is this legal practitioner to notify the client to wait, that his secretary is in another part of the country and the matter will have to wait until he has returned back to the city during the New Year?
Any lawyer that paints the above scenario has showcased a gross level of unpardonable incompetence and should be dropped like a hot potato by the client if the latter knows what is best for him.
Learning how to use online communication systems
Communications in this fast-moving world today has gone beyond the physical sending of correspondence between entities and phones calls, plus physical face-to-face interactions, to more sophisticated means of communication that is wholly based on the use of technological systems ranging from the use of Dropbox and other online cloud storage-cum-sharing systems, to sophisticated business email usage; to the use of Internet calls, to video calls. . . the list of technological systems in use in today’s terrifyingly fast-paced world is inexhaustive.
There are some lawyers, many of them seniors at the Bar (some of whom are even Senior Advocates of Nigeria), who cannot string together simple sentences in their email clients to send off into the Information Superhighway. They rely on the work of their secretaries and other minions to do these for them. There are some of them who cannot even open an email address or access the one they have(that is if they even have one in the first place).
What would be the fate of these lawyers if they have correspondence to send which are of an extremely confidential nature? Will they still have to make use of the services of their underpaid secretaries? Or will they have to sit at the keyboard and slave away for hours on something that would ordinarily take a technology-savvy person minutes to do?
The above scenario will amount to a gross waste of man-hours and jealously-guarded precious time which can be quantified in money and productivity.
So, lawyers had better learn to use the necessary systems and gadgets that will aid them in their work to make their lives easier. Not only easier, but also imperative for any practice which hopes to appear on the map as a practice to be reckoned with.
With the above to reflect on, it is time to sign out, and please lawyers, go and update yourself. Do not say that you do not have the time to; nobody does. You just have to create out the time to learn all these for yourself.
This series will be continued in the next article.
Ani Kingsley Ugochukwu LLB., BL., firstname.lastname@example.org
Legal Practitioner, Nigeria.