While the panel unanimously agreed that technology has changed the legal profession for the better, some interesting ethical questions were raised, including technology and the “human factor”; the impact of the digital divide and the issue of privacy.

Terrance Naidoo, CTO of LexisNexis South Africa

A panel, comprising attorney Romeo Nthambeleni, adjunct professor Sizwe Snail representing the Law Society and LexisNexis Chief Technology Officer Terrance Naidoo, presented a wide range of insights into how technology is embedded in the profession legal.

Naidoo believes that effectively integrating technology into a legal practice gives a firm a competitive advantage and lawyers a competitive advantage. This technology includes predictive analytics, smart content, and smart workspaces that drive results.

Naidoo claims that analyzing large volumes of data leads to the identification of patterns, allowing lawyers to make better decisions based on past results.

Snail says that tech literacy is now “an integral part of being a lawyer.” And to that end, he says higher education institutions are starting to pick up the pace when it comes to preparing students for technology in the workplace.

Nthambeleni’s view of technology and the legal profession is overwhelmingly positive. He notes that while the Covid-19 pandemic has forced legal proceedings online, the South African legal profession has embraced and adapted this digital environment with positive results.

As technology reduces consultation times and simplifies many aspects of laborious cases, both clients and attorneys will benefit.

While panel members unanimously agreed on the benefits of effectively integrating technology into the legal space, important conversations emerged around ethical issues.

One of them is the question of inequality and can our constitutional right to access to information be recognized across a digital chasm? In a country with one of the highest GINI coefficients in the world, does the digital shift in the legal profession mean that some people will be left behind?

Nthambeleni argues that denying data means denying access to justice, while Naidoo sees the implementation of zero-rated data sites as a possible solution to data inequality.

All panelists agreed that cybersecurity and data protection are paramount, with Naidoo stressing that the right safeguards must be in place to ensure privacy. He says that as technologies evolve to integrate more operations, cybersecurity measures are changing rapidly. Nthambeleni called for faster implementation of data protection and personalization legislation.

And what about the human factor? Concerns have been raised about the possibility of technology replacing human processes in cases where it could exacerbate the trauma of victims.

Snail warned that lawyers should not abuse or become overly reliant on technology. Nthambeleni addressed the concern using the analogy of referees in sport explaining that referees are primarily responsible for making the final decision when it comes to decisions, but technology helps them to make more informed decisions.

So while the human side of law can never be replaced by technology, decision-making processes can be better informed and refined using data. And it is in this direction that the legal profession is moving more and more rapidly.

If you would like to join LexisNexis and the LSSA to dive deeper into the 2021/22 Legal Tech Report in the FREEState of the Legal Industry webinar series, register here: https://bit.ly/3JIQ7BE.