Effectiveness of attorneys = IT literacy

May 1st, 2014

Mapula Thebe – Editor

One of the most interesting sessions held during the Law Society of South Africa’s (LSSA’s) annual general meeting (AGM) was the panel discussion on developments and trends in the information technology (IT) and electronic environment (see p 7). It is without a doubt that for any law firm to survive in this day and age, big or small, it needs to have access to functional software and hardware that will enable it to stand out from the rest. Technology has the potential to increase functionality in any firm, therefore enabling attorneys to process and deal with cases expeditiously and in turn increasing access to justice.

For law firms that are just starting out, acquiring computer equipment might not be financially possible. Fortunately for those law firms, the Attorneys Development Fund has made it possible for them to apply for office equipment that may include a desktop computer or laptop and 3G data card or a Telkom ADSL (see p 28). A computer and access to the internet will be a start in the right direction in enabling a law firm to ensure sustainability and keep abreast of technology developments.

More often than not attorneys find themselves working outside of the office. Therefore, it makes sense for an attorney to invest in a laptop, tablet, netbook or smart mobile device that will enable them to still carry on working regardless of the place they are in. Because of the demand of these devices, more affordable devices are being released in the market enabling attorneys to have access to one and not be restricted to purchasing the expensive mainstream devices. There are many available applications (apps) that will enable attorneys to literally have their law firms at their fingertips. These apps range from case-flow management to billing systems.

Price is usually a determining factor in whether a law firm will have the best available software or apps. Attorneys will be pleased to learn that there are a myriad of free available software and apps that can and will perform the function of most of the paid apps and software. All it takes is the time to search for such free software and apps. Key to receiving a suitable and desirable hit, on free software or apps, in any search engine is knowing what function the software or app is required to perform. Meaning attorneys should first ask themselves what they want the app or software to do before searching for it on the internet.

During his captivating presentation at the LSSA AGM, Fred Baumhardt from Microsoft emphasised that the effectiveness of any attorney will be dependent on their IT knowledge. Attorneys should note that IT is not something to be feared but should rather be embraced as those who do not will be left behind in the inevitable digital migration of rendering law services.

This article was first published in De Rebus in 2014 (May) DR 3.