Someone wrote recently, “Technology won’t replace lawyers, but lawyers who use technology will replace those who don’t”. As someone who specialises in eDiscovery and witnessed the transformation in the UK of the use of technology before moving to South Africa some six years ago, I would totally agree with those sentiments. Since living here, it has been my mission to educate lawyers in the use of eDiscovery technology and to persuade the Department of Justice to amend the rules of civil procedure to incorporate eDiscovery, bringing South Africa into the 21st century and aligning with other jurisdictions.
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 four 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 another entitled, “The Future of the Profession: How Technology will Transform the Work of Human Experts.” His latest is “Online Courts and the Future of Justice”. All of these and others are readily available via Amazon.
Do you detect his theme and my interest? Of course, it is the technology and how its use 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?”. 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, 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.
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. 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. I went through this revolution in the UK and managed to train lawyers, some who thought a mouse was something that ate cheese, to use eDiscovery software successfully, in less than an hour. I can tell you that many law students in South Africa are clamouring for more technology in their curricula. I have lectured at UWC in Cape Town and at Cape Town Law College and the interest of students is fantastic to see but also worrying. Once qualified, they know nothing about technology as part of their work lives, which is so wrong. Similarly, a South African colleague told me recently that within her LLM course, IT law had been withdrawn.
A very good friend of mine, a Senior Counsel and retired High Court Judge, and I are working hard with the LPC to bring more technology into their post-qualification courses and will go around the country lecturing. However, this is no substitute for including various aspects of technology in pre-qualification courses.
Let’s 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 years before moving into the field of using technology in litigation cases. 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.
About the Author
Terry Harrison is the only independent eDiscovery Consultant in South Africa and he advises law firms, corporations and service providers. He writes an award-winning blog on the subject and is currently co-authoring a book on eDiscovery for the SA market. Previously Terry spent 25 years as a litigation fee earner in law firms in the UK before moving into litigation technology where he was MD of a UK litigation technology provider in London. After 15 years Terry moved to Cape Town with his South African wife intending to retire. However, his passion for eDiscovery and global contacts together with the lack of knowledge of eDiscovery in SA soon put paid to retirement. Terry has single-handedly pressurized the Dept of Justice to incorporate eDiscovery into the Uniform Rules of civil procedure and the Rules Board have now established a Task Force to deal with this.