LSSA introduces seminar on attorneys adjusting to the changing legal services landscape

January 27th, 2016
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Compiled by Ros Elphick

Many articles have been written, both nationally and internationally, about the changing legal landscape facing lawyers and their professions. The common theme throughout these articles is that the business model of traditional law firms has already changed and will continue to change in the future. It is important to note the law itself is not becoming less relevant but rather there is an urgent need for better and cheaper legal services that can keep pace with the demands of a rapidly globalising world.

  • Many permanent changes are already in place, which include – using digital media to promote law firm branding and practice law;
  • shrinking bespoke work;
  • commoditisation of legal work;
  • greater pricing competition;
  • cloud data storage and access;
  • e-discovery;
  • competition from non-traditional legal service providers; and
  • non-hourly billing arrangements.

It is noticeable from the above examples that the significance of information and communication technologies has been growing exponentially in legal practice over the past few years. Making technology work for all participants in the justice system benefits all sectors of society as it enhances access to justice. For example, the public’s Internet connectivity has led to greater access to the law via advice and self-help legal services. Advancing technology should, therefore, serve as a means of closing rather than widening the justice gap.

A variety of systems are used in the electronic transfer of information, which includes interfacing with government systems, for example, the South African Revenue Services transfer duty submission system. All indications are that these types of mandatory electronic reporting interfaces are likely to increase as government prioritises the development and implementation of business solutions in key strategic areas.

To survive the changes, law firms need to respond strategically and effectively to differentiate themselves from the competition. Many law firms have already transformed and streamlined their websites to reflect a strong, modern brand that is client centric (focuses on solving client problems through effective, efficient services). There is no doubt that the effective use of social media is one of the top skills required by an attorney in the 21st century. Indeed, a competent attorney’s skillset needs to evolve as technology evolves.

It is a strategic imperative that law firms adapting to the changing landscape engage in due diligence exercises as part of business risk management to ensure that their professional responsibilities are still being executed properly.

In February/March of 2016, the Legal Education and Development (LEAD) division of the Law Society of South Africa will hold a seminar where specialists in their fields identify and discuss current and future trends in the profession, both nationally and internationally. The seminar will highlight why attorneys should think differently about their profession to remain relevant in the future.

If you are interested in attending the LEAD seminar called ‘The end of legal practice as we know it’, e-mail Barbara Makhanda on seminars@LSSALEAD.org.za.

Compiled by Ros Elphick, Communication Practitioner, Law Society of South Africa, Ros@LSSALEAD.org.za

This article was first published in De Rebus in 2016 (Jan/Feb) DR 16.

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