The President of the International Bar Association, Horacio Neto, has alerted Nigerian lawyers to the silent revolution and disruptions taking place in legal practice on account of advancement in technology.
Neto said Nigerian lawyers must be alert to the new reality so as not to be left behind or totally edged out.
He urged them to pay attention to new electronic tools being designed to do jobs which lawyers have traditionally done for years.
While saying that the change could neither be wished away nor stopped, Neto says the only option left for lawyers was to adapt to the new reality being driven by technology.
However, he argued that the robots being designed could not replace lawyers, but lawyers must develop themselves to be able to operate and take advantage of legal robots.
The IBA President said this in his keynote address at the opening ceremony of this year’s Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association.
Speaking about the future of the legal profession, Neto said technology had begun to change the role of lawyers and lawyers in other countries had begun to respond to the change.
Neto, who informed the gathering that in his country, Brazil, filing of paper documents in court had been completely replaced with electronic filing, urged the Nigerian legal practitioners to pay attention to the digitalization of the judiciary around the world.
He said, “I have visited firms that have teams of legal engineers, teams of legal architects, teams of legal designers. The legal architects are going to prepare software, either customizing the software or creating the software; the legal engineers are those who feed the software with needs of the client and the legal designers are those that design how the function is going to be delivered and they are all lawyers.
“So, this is the creation of a new profession that you guys are going to face. But this will certainly create many new opportunities for you. Lawyers will not be replaced by robots; lawyers will create the robots; the robots will be dependent on us.”
Neto said in spite of the revolution being driven by technology, the core values of the legal profession, such as integrity and honesty, would never change and urged lawyers not to trade them.
He urged law firms to embrace diversity and inclusion.
“We need to take care of our core values. There are some characteristics of the legal profession that will never change – integrity, honesty; our commitment to the rule of law; our commitment to human life,” he said.
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), urged Nigerian lawyers to be prepared to take advantage of the African Continent Free Trade Area Treaty signed by Nigeria in July.
He said, “As a professional body desirous of charting a path into the future, I must encourage you to take full advantage of the benefits of this treaty once it becomes fully operational in order to expand the scope of your services within the shores of Nigeria through support from emerging trans-border commercial entities to offer legal services to adversary individuals and institutions.”
In his welcome remarks, the Chairman of the Technical Committee on (NBA) Conference Planning, Gbenga Oyebode, said the theme, “Facing the Future,” was chosen “in view of the contemporary challenges confronting the legal profession.”
He said, “The Nigerian legal profession is today facing all kinds of threats, including stiff external competition in an increasingly globalized world. We are confronted with new frontiers of knowledge and technology that are continually reshaping the world and the way we do things. Added to this is the increasing concern for the role that the rule of law must play in the emerging landscape.”