A revolution is coming, in fact its already here.
And none of us can stop or resist it. It like a nuclear Armageddon, it will sweep the length and breadth of the entire industries, it will change the way we live and work, it will alter the current course of our existence and usher in a new era – the fourth industrial revolution.1
After steam, electricity and computing, the age of deep digital transformation fueled by incredible advances in technology – is now upon us, we stand on the threshold of vast changes. These changes will be in scope and scale unlike anything human kind has experienced. And out of the many technologies that will materially impact our lives, AI is a prime candidate.2
What is Artificial Intelligence and how can it affect legal practice in Nigeria, what are the dangers and consequences of not embracing this technology. Where is Nigeria Legal System in the scheme of things. These and many more similar questions are what legal practitioners as individuals and as a body is supposed to continually asked itself in other not to be left behind in the scheme of things.
DEFINITION OF KEY TERMS
The term Artificial Intelligence (hereinafter referred to as ‘AI’) was first coined by John McCarthy in 1956 wherein he defined AI as the science and engineering of making intelligent machines.3 According to Ross Intelligence, AI is a broad category which includes any software or device that can perceive its environment and adapt its action to maximize its chances of reaching its goals.4 AI are powered by machine learning, deep learning and programming rules.5
AI attempts to mimic human intelligence, self-awareness, knowledge and thought in computer software to allow it to act with varying degrees of autonomy thereby reducing manual human intervention for a wide range of functions.
Al is frequently used to depict a device or application doing things we normally associate with human cognition, live learning and solving problems. Legally, The Black’s Law Dictionary (2nd edn) defined AI as “a software used to make computers and robots work better than humans.
In this work, we shall simply defined AI as any computer system or technology that can receive data, analyze data and give intelligent result with very minimal human intervention/effort.
Furthermore, the term Law practice refers to the professional services of a lawyer which involves giving legal advice to clients, drafting legal document for clients, and representing clients in negotiations, arbitration and Court proceedings.6
Sustainable according to The English Online Dictionary means able to sustain, support, strengthen something; to keep it going without damaging or depleting the environmental or resource of such thing7.
Thus, the writer defines Sustainable Law Practice as the ability to keep the professional services of a lawyer going, the ability to sustain, strengthen and support the professional service of a lawyer to remain relevant, germane and efficient.
Therefore, this work shall examine the role and function of AI in sustaining, strengthening and supporting the professional services of a lawyer to remain relevant, germane and suitable to the Nigeria society in line with current technology trends.
THE ROLE OF AI IN VARIOUS ASPECT OF LAW PRACTICE
One amazing fact about AI is that it can be developed to suit and support all areas of law practice, its use permeants all areas of law, be it corporate, litigation or arbitration.
In Corporate practice, AI can be developed to help lawyers in Nigeria draft legal agreements and document with ease and precision. The AI will have in it, prestored legal agreement. The AI technology will require a lawyer to just input variables of each individual case like name and address of parties and then the device will present a ready to use agreement to the lawyer for his perusal and final printing. For instance, Lawpadi, an online website which provides legal information have a semblance of this as regard demand letters, it has a platform where one can fill in some variables and a letter of demand specific to one’s situation will be generated and sent to the person’s email.8
Also, AI can be used to review the shortcoming and errors in a legal document. AI devices can also help the Nigeria Lawyer in analyzing and assessing accurately risk and conduct due diligence for transactions that requires such. In fact, a semblance of these technology already exists in many Jurisdictions, for Instance ThoughtRiver, a contract intelligence software that uses machine learning to scan contracts and other legal documents and present information in an online dashboard for the users to review the risk. Another is JP Morgan’s Contract Intelligence, a software which reduces the amount of time it takes to review legal document. Blockchain contracts which are drawn up without manual input of lawyers is another efficient way in which AI has help in sustaining the services of lawyers.
Furthermore, as regards litigation, AI can be used in the filing system of Courts. AI technology can also be developed to give notices and reminders of court sitting to lawyers and litigants. Many a lawyer have complained of the incessant delay and unannounced adjournment of matters in court by judges after they have expended time and resources to be in court on time. AI technology if deployed properly by Nigerian courts will eliminated this problem and enable lawyers use their time effectively.
It’s a good tiding that some states in Nigeria have implemented virtual proceedings fully and even end to end E-filings. Worthy of mention is Borno and Ondo States. Borno state was the first state in Nigeria to hold virtual Court sitting.9 On the other hand, Ondo State is the first state with an end to end automated E-registry.
Ondo State has recently launched its e-registry on 29th July, 2020, wherein, Mr, Ope Olugasa, the team lead of the project and Managing Partner of Law pavilion noted thus; “through robotic process in the E-registry, the filing of court processes has been fully automated with all the necessary features to allow for an end to end e-filing. The E-registry has been automated with the necessary filling fees to allow for a quick and effective filling process. The Counsel or the litigant can have their processes assessed, pay the assessed filing fee and proceed to actually file their processes all on the same platform and within the twinkle of an eye. The filed processes are also automatically synced into the court’s record. This, he said, is the future of justice deliverythe new normal.”10 What can be truer than Mr Ope’s concluding statement on the future of justice.
Also, the current Covid19 Pandemic has shown that the use of technology especially AI technology is more needed in our court now than ever. The court system has been paying lips service to electronic filing and virtual Court proceeding, this is the time to act, and the action must be based on a technological innovation like AI.
It’s evident that law practice in Nigeria is highly conservative, lawyers always stick to profession traditions and norms in order to maintain its ancient status of nobility. However, in the light of the waves of technological advancement and the Coronavirus Pandemic, the legal profession as well as our body of laws have open up to these technological changes. This can be seen in the insertion of Section 84 into the Evidence Act in 2011 to allow electronic generated evidence to be admissible, the directive by the former Chief Justice of Nigeria making the use of legal mail compulsory in dealing with Appellate Court in Nigeria and the introduction of e-filing, virtual Annual general meeting and other technological innovation in the Companies and Allied matters Act, 2020. This is an adjustment to the ranging waves of technological innovation and it’s an evidence of the opening up of law practice for the introduction and advancement of more technology especially AI based technology.
Aside the use of AI in court system, AI can also be used by law chambers across Nigeria. Software tools like Ravel law and Lex Machine predict the possible outcomes of a case by using large volume of litigation information, court decisions, filing data and legal process. Use of such software and its prediction, if localized to our cases laws, will serve as a guide to the lawyer as to the strength and weakness of his client’s case.
AI will help in sustaining law practice in Nigeria because it will simplify the work of lawyers. It will help lawyers to achieve more with less time. AI can be deployed by Nigeria lawyers to perform repetitive tasks or scanning voluminous documents in order to get some vital information. Overseas, AI technology like Leverton of German origin, manages documents and complies leases in real estate transactions11.
Another salient role AI will play in boosting law practice in Nigeria, is that it will make legal research easy, congenial and facile. With AI, Nigeria lawyer need not scan through various cases or document or even text, he just uses keywords and the AI device will present relevant and necessary information to him within few minutes. AI devices such as Law Pavilion Prime, TIMI and Ross Intelligence are good examples. we need to begin to utilize these tools and make it a norm.
A giant step in this direction in Nigeria is the Law Pavilion Prime, an analytical software which has great lessen the endless search of relevant case from the Nigeria lawyer. Also, the Nigeria Company responsible for Law Pavilion Prime has launched another AI technology in Nigeria which they called “TIMI”. Timi is programmed to walk the user through the civil procedural rules in Nigeria Courts bringing to the user attention what has to be done within what time frame, consequence of failure to do something within the stipulated time and the remedy (if any). Another example of this is ROSS Intelligence. Ross read through thousands of cases and deliver a ranked list of the most relevant ones, Ross help lawyers to analyze legal issues and make connections that would otherwise be invisible. It even writes legal memo like actual humans. More so, Kira and Seal software also help simplify the research process of a lawyer.
AI devices like Google Voice Assistant or Apple’s Siri which engage in discussion with its users can be developed in legal field to help lawyers to chat with an AI device which will define terms, research cases and even get Supreme Court pronouncement on certain issues. Oh, how wonderful and beautiful will law practice be with such AI technology.
In this work, we must mention the case of Lola v Skadden12 wherein the US Court held that the task that could otherwise be performed entirely by machine cannot be said to engage in the practice of law. This means that once a task can be entirely performed by machine that such task can no longer be considered to be in the practice of law. Though the case is of foreign jurisdiction and not binding on Nigeria courts, this writer is of the opinion that such decision cannot stand in Nigeria because what brings a task in the threshold of law practice is defined by law and it’s the lawyers signature, stamp and seal that makes such document binding and not the process of producing such documents or task.
CHALLENGES OF AI IN NIGERIA LEGAL SYSTEM
Despite the advantages of AI in Nigeria, the advancement of AI in Nigeria will be greatly affected by epileptic power supply, lack of ICT infrastructure, lack of support from government, conservative and archaic mindset of some lawyers and judges, inadequate technical know-how and fear of job loss.
AI AND THE PHOBIA OF UNEMPLOYMENT FOR LAWYERS
Right. With the rise of AI, comes the fear of Job loss. To this effect, Jon Hagel douse the tension when he opines “If we do it right, we might be able to evolve a form of AI that taps into our uniquely human capabilities and restores our humanity. AI are not going to replace humans, they are going to make our jobs much more humane. Difficult, demeaning, dangerous, dull and repetitive jobs are the jobs AI will be taking away”.
The work load on many lawyers are too voluminous thus leading to stress and other health implications such as high blood pressure, heart and stress related sickness. With the full utilization of AI, this stress will be reduced or even discard and the Nigeria lawyer will perform more at lesser time and more optimally.
Indeed, AI will keep the lazy, technological illiterate and unprepared lawyer out of job and make them redundant. However, no AI can outdo, a prepared and technological savvy lawyer rather such a tech savvy lawyer will use AI to satisfactorily solve his client’s problems as well as make his/her practice of law more efficient and make him/her more productive. As Celia succinctly puts it; the point is not to create robot lawyers but to take the robot out of the lawyers.
AI will create jobs opportunities for lawyers in the technological industries. Because many lawyers will pick interest in the development of AI and they will help the engineers in facilitating the creation and invention of AI systems and devices. To survive the rise of technology in the legal field, lawyers will need to adapt to a new practice of law in which they will act as innovators, purveyors of judgment and wisdom and guardians of fairness and impartiality within law practice.13
This writer believe that AI is here to stay and once AI is used optimally to achieve the above stated goals, indeed there will be a general consensus that AI has supported and sustain the professional services of a lawyer and even made the Nigeria lawyers more productive and reliable.
It’s on this note that we must commend the leadership of the Nigeria Bar Association under the leadership of Mr Paul Usoro, SAN for their timely exposure of Nigerian young Lawyers to the world of AI by the one-year subscription of Law Pavilion for all young lawyers. Its indeed true that Law Pavilion takes the lead in creating AI software and program in Nigeria and young lawyers in Nigeria have been given the key to utilize this AI software in Law pavilion for a year.
Summarily, AI is here with us, there is no going back. The legal community must embrace AI as it has potentials that if properly harnessed will make law practice in Nigeria easier, faster, more reliable, efficient and effective.
SOURCE: The Nigeria Lawyer – https://thenigerialawyer.com/the-role-of-artificial-intelligence-ai-in-creating-a-sustainable-law-practice-in-nigeria-3/