Technology has significantly remodeled every sphere of our life. Teaching and learning are easier and more effective and businesses are transacting with greater ease and efficiency. With cognizance to the fact that technology has advanced the customary life in Nigeria and the quintessential role it plays in legal practice and education, the conservative legal profession sluggishly move towards the line of technology. Despite the looming challenges, the importance of technology in the 21st century legal profession cannot be overemphasized.
The impact of technology on legal practice and education
The touch of technology has been felt in the legal profession, from legal education to the government and to the practice of law. It has become an integral part of creating efficiency and promoting access to justice.
In the past two decades, judges and lawyers have pondered over the application of technology in the judicial and legal process. Rather than the old flipping of large amount of heavy books to search for cases, people can now speedily, via access to the internet , get in touch with court cases and decisions from anywhere in the world just by logging into a website that keeps a legal database.
Moreso, the growth, awareness and consciousness of the Nigerian law in the hearts of the populace has birthed the yearning for fast, easy and succinct access to justice. Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the likes, where legal related contents are regularly posted makes it easy for citizens to gain legal knowledge and create awareness to legal related issues
Furthermore, given the workload and volumes of information and data in the judicial process, applying technology will increase efficiency, promote easy research and allow for easier information retrieval and in the long run, reduce stress while enhancing the judicial process. Legal technology reduces inefficiency, inaccuracy, lack of transparency and integrity which are the major causes of delay in the dispensation of justice. With the steady increase in litigation, judges, court staff, as well as lawyers have to contend with voluminous records, the preparation and filling of which takes time, are prone to loss and space consumption.
The stress of legal education, the poorly equipped libraries, the inadequate appliances to ease manual research, the cost of quality study materials greatly hampers the quest for knowledge. With legal technology, students and masses alike can gain easy access to study materials and case files without having to sweat out in the poorly equipped libraries or resort to borrowing books from people. Computer Assisted Legal Research (CALR) are innovations that aids legal education.
Additionally, with legal virtual communities, citizens do not have to travel on bad roads and sit in over crowded taxis to get to law firms for advice and other legal aid, one can sit comfortably at home or at his or her workplaces and book appointments, get legal advice and have conversations with legal professionals through their websites. Law degrees can equally be gotten online, one can comfortably go about their daily businesses and at the same time, study and at the end of the study period, get a degree in law.
Challenges of legal technology in Nigeria
In the true sense of it, there is never a concept that is all rosy. The technological revolution has brought along cybercrimes which poses a serious threat to the judiciary. Issues of criminal trespass into another’s computer, theft of data, use of internet for fraudulent activities, copyright theft have been attached to this revolution.
The infrastructural breakdown in the country equally hinders the speedy growth of legal technology. Circumstances of months-lasting power outage makes it impossible to access online documents and make use of the internet. Most Nigerians patronize the internet providers; MTN, Globacom, 9mobile and Airtel for lack of other network providers. The practice of switching Sims regularly is a natural occurrence in the country, this is due to poor services and network. Without strong network, access to the internet is made almost impossible and this frustrates the use of the internet for legal services.
Laziness is a big attribute of Nigerian students today, the access to online research works have greatly slowed and adversely effected students research strength, it is very easy to go online, get an article, copy and paste and then make it theirs. The fear of plagiarism and the allergy to change has prevented some lecturers from encouraging legal technology.
Furthermore, fake news and rumors easily circulates online, this could lead to the transfer of wrong legal information to the general public, creating misconceptions and misunderstanding of the law.
In addition, quality online legal research are usually not free, money is required to subscribe to them and Nigerians would rather go through the pain of flipping through pages than paying for easy online information. This greatly slows down the amount of subscribers to Computer Assisted Legal Research platforms.
Recommendations and conclusion
Given the significant challenges hampering the full adoption and benefits of legal technology in Nigeria, big steps must be taken to remedy this situation.
The need for a better and more developed infrastructural framework and internet service cannot be overemphasized. The world is going digital and the need to move with it is wholly fundamental. The Nigerian government through public private partnerships and issuance of license can bring down the problems of failing infrastructure and poor internet service, respectively.
Plagiarism check devices are not new to the world. These devices should be employed to place check and discourage the theft of intellectual property and other matters of plagiarism. Intellectual property and copyright laws should be fully enforced and rumors and news on social media, thoroughly scrutinized.
Furthermore, to ensure that the need for knowledge and quick yet efficient access to justice is met, investments should be made in legal technology to being down the cost of legal research and the build up of more CALR networks. Knowledge is power, to this effect, seminars and other awareness programs should be organized to sensitize the citizens of Nigeria on the importance of legal technology.
In conclusion, as George Bernard Shaw said; “progress is impossible without change and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything”, the legal profession, no matter how traditional and conservatively sacred it is, must dust off the cobwebs of resistance and don a new futuristic suit. Embracing the change is a challenge but as all forward thinking legal professionals will know, with challenges, come opportunities. The future really looks bright and the time to live is indeed now!