To wrap up 2013, we asked industry leaders to share their views on game changing events through 2013 and how these and other future changes will mould the legal sector next year.
We received views from:
Brett Owens from Chrometa time tracking software
Wayne Melle of Maynards Office Technology on dictation technology
Tamara Crighton from Nokia
Roelf van Zyl from Keyphase Technologies
Vanessa Miller, the Managing Director of VM Consulting
Gavin McLachlan, the Chairperson of the LSSA E-Law committee
John Mc Loughlin, Managing Director of J2 Software
Billy Last, CEO of LexisNexis.
Many thanks to all those who contributed.
From our vantage point, 2013 was significant in that it appears most attorneys are now embracing the “cloud” and mobile technologies for managing their practice. There’s been a huge shift in attitudes since we launched our first product in 2009 (which was desktop-only and embraced by the “anti-cloud” crowd) and since 2011 (when we launched our cloud version and were met with some adoption resistance).
I think the shift was inevitable, as Apple, Google, and company have shown everyone how convenient software can be. Here in the U.S. the bar associations – to their credit – took a practical approach as web-based products began to take hold. At large, they advised their attorneys that the use of cloud-based products were fine, provided they took steps to ensure the reliability of the vendor providing the product.
CEO, Chrometa – The world’s most advanced time-tracking software
Maynards Office Technology
Game Changes in Technology – Dictation
Looking back at 2013 but more importantly into 2014 from a technology point of view in the Dictation world I think the key phrase to remember would be “Mobility”.
The Dictation industry hasn’t seen any major changes to the way the technology works for the past 5 or so years now, yes we have launched new devices with added functionality but the overall concept has remained unchanged, ie do your recording, download it to your PC via USB cable and then have your typist / Dragon transcribe your files.
With the introduction of Wireless Technology in conjunction with New Smartphone Applications the dictation world has truly embraced the term “Mobility”, dictation work can now be created anywhere, whether that’s via the App itself or via your dictation unit and then transferred wirelessly to your smartphone to be transmitted back to your typist to be transcribed. To a certain extent some form of this technology has been available for years via Server Based technologies like BigHand but what makes it exciting is the fact that it is now affordable for any user, whether you are a single user or you are part of a major law firm with over 500 users you will now be able to make this technology work for you.
So what benefit will you as an attorney get from this new technology? The biggest benefit has to be the amount of time you can save in the dictation cycle (from creating your dictation to having it transcribed) and we all know that time saved doing things like that can be translated into greater profits in the long run.
In order to harness this technology and make it work for you please feel free to get hold of us in the New Year to set up a system that will suit your needs as well as your budget the best.
Maynards Office Technology
Spurred by revelations of US government spying reports, 2013 saw the broader public starting to really pay attention to big brands and companies such as Google and Twitter making sweeping changes to their privacy policies.
It is my view that the personal data protection debate will be fuelled by the targeting of mobile advertising revenue – and so extend very specifically into the mobile application space in 2014 – where your every move, location and interaction can be tracked.
Companies want their applications to create intuitive consumer value (pushing relevant content, suggestions and data to you based on your location, friends and activity) – however the collection and on-sell of this data to advertisers means that the company’s policies need to be updated.
The debate is not so much one of moral high ground, but rather that companies are not making their privacy policies very clear from the start to consumers or changing them later down the line. African application developers need to be very careful and aware of how they are structuring their privacy policies, terms and conditions – future proof them against anticipated revenue models where user data could be on-sold.
Head of DX, Nokia Application Partnerships for Sub-Saharan Africa
The biggest game changer is for sure the enactment of PoPI for the reasons that:
1- all law firms use technology
2- pretty close to all technologies use and store information
3- it is now required by law for the firms to keep this information protected.
This implies that ALL firms would need to re-look at how they work with tech, and how their tech works with information. This not only has a technological impact, but an organisational impact as well.
Roelf van Zyl
2014 IT Trends in Legal Firms
With the continued evolution of technology, the operating models of an organization will play a huge part in helping organizations achieve their goals moving forward into 2014. Placing focus not only on efficiency, but on effectiveness of the organization as well.
“Our team at VM Consulting, have been working closely with the Legal Sector for many years and are often called upon not only as software solution providers, but also as advisors in aligning technology to the organization’s overall strategic goals. We are assisting Firms on their transformation journeys, to become streamlined, competitive and efficient organizations that are ready for business growth”, commented Vanessa Miller, Managing Director at VM Consulting.
VM Consulting’s vision of technology trends for 2014 in the legal sector are as follows :
Mobility is a common trend across all industry types, and the legal sector is no exception. Legal practitioners are spending more time away from the office, and need to have access to not only their emails on smart phones or tablets, but also their documents, processes and business applications.
Firms are looking for new ways to add levels of security to the case and matters files they are working on. Firms are starting to open up their environments to allow remote users and even customers access to their solutions, and before doing this they need to focus on security.
Working together smarter, is the motto for many Firms for 2014 and collaborating on matters across Firms is now a necessity in many cases. The need for secure tools for a party to upload documents and add their comments is increasing.
Firms are looking for easier and better ways of allocating time, billing and disbursements to case files.
This is an ongoing concern and many Firms understand they have a knowledge gap. Firms need to retain Firm knowledge in a structured environment for the longevity of the Firm.
360 degree view of the Client
With many Clients retaining the Firm on multiple matters, the ability to see a complete 360 degree view of the Client, all their related matters, business processes, billing and contacts is key to competing is this very competitive industry.
Embracing change for a nimble and secure organization, and extending individual focus beyond “law” to “effective legal work” is the future of 2014.
Managing Director of VM Consulting
Comments on changes in 2013 and what to expect in 2014.
Mobile access and availability are becoming ever more important. Lawyers must be available where and when clients need them and can no longer simply expect clients to come to see them or be unable to access something wherever they happen to be.
Increasing digital access to services and information will require technologically confident lawyers with whatever access is needed. At the same time, proper knowledge of digital processes and evidence as well as so called cyber law in general will become ever more important and those who not able to work in the 21st Century business environment will be left behind.
Government is aware of the need for real e-government and the recent general SA Connect policy statement by the Minister of Communications is really encouraging. Both the Chief Master and the Chief Registrar of Deeds are seriously involved in developing on line interaction processes which will require lawyers to be properly “switched on”. The profession is actively involved in both processes and the courts system will certainly follow quite soon.
Early in 2014, the profession will be running large scale trials, in conjunction with the State and others, of digital certificates incorporating its own advanced electronic signature with real time verification of each lawyer’s status against the Law Society database. That process should result in quite swift acceleration towards proper e-litigation and on line process management.
The Protection of Personal Information Act ( Act 4 of 2013) will probably be brought into full effect before mid-2014 and all lawyers will have a year after that to re-engineer their businesses to be compliant and to serve their clients effectively. Increasingly, compliance with internationally accepted standards will be expected, especially as legal process outsourcing spreads and lawyers will be subject to intense scrutiny.
Commoditisation of legal services will continue to accelerate and an even wider variety of competitors will emerge. The Legal Practice Act will also substantially alter the environment, often in unexpected ways, and the only constant will be change so lawyers will need to constantly refresh and even completely recreate their knowledge bases and skills.
Continuing education will thus be a necessity and not a luxury so we are fortunate to have our LEAD service which will become more and more important for us in the near future.
Obviously also, mobile devices and their properties are very important so whether it’s BYOD or not, redoing corporate firewalls and policies to cater for the edge of network vulnerabilities is vital. POPI will add a bite to that since losing a device and personal data will attract financial and reputational penalties which a business might not survive.
Training people to use those devices effectively is also something to deal with since tablets or smartphones without knowledgeable users are just so much e-glitter.
This is not a generational thing as digital natives do not necessarily automatically use smart devices effectively and all humans are capable of astounding security (and other) lapses.
Chairperson of the LSSA E-Law committee
POPI a game changer
10 years in the making, and finally on the horizon, the Protection of Personal Information Bill is going to be felt in every company in South Africa. All public and private companies will have to ensure adequate systems are put in place to protect the personal information of their customers, and this will result in an increased responsibility for the security of that data – from capture to deletion.
“POPI and increased governance requirements have been a critical factor to many companies this year, and will drive the adoption of technologies going forward into 2014 and beyond,” says John Mc Loughlin, MD of J2 Software. “We have been speaking about this for over four years now, and in most cases our clients have said they will wait until it becomes law. Now that it is here, a lot of companies will be scrambling to get things in place as soon as possible.”
The requirements of the Bill will be met by ensuring that there is adequate and total protection of company, personal and customer information, but Mc Loughlin points out that this is not only when it is stored on a server but also comes down to the storage of data on mobile devices, cloud services and memory sticks.
“Are you aware of what data is saved on these devices? And what levels of protection are installed on all of these platforms. This is critical. If something is lost or stolen can you firstly be sure all the information is protected and secondly inform the clients whose information was on that device? To do this you need to know what is there to start with.”
The process of becoming fully compliant with POPI will be a time-consuming and costly exercise for many companies and practices that will impact on legal and compliance management, information governance, information security, records management and business continuity management.
Technology is therefore essential to the management of the data, but technology is only one aspect. Mc Loughlin says that organisations, law firms, trading companies, etc. should not deploy technology for the sake of technology – but rather to cover specific business and legal requirements.
“POPI is one aspect of this, along with the changing compliance and governance requirements placed on all businesses. So I want entities to make sure that the solutions they put in place not only improve their operations, but also ensure compliance with relevant laws and codes. It all comes back down to policy. Do you have a policy around information security and device and data usage? What is the policy? Can you show it to us (or to your staff)? And then how do you measure compliance and enforce it. Having a great laminated and beautiful policy is worthless if it is not enforced and measured.”
Mc Loughlin adds that in their current rush to comply, many companies run the risk of choosing the wrong technology, without taking their policies into account. “Each client is different, and will have some small specific requirements that need to be addressed. That is what we at J2 Software do – we will see what policies our customers have, and then provide a suitable solution to cover against all identified risks. We are about to bring on a new customer that is a 10 user legal practice. They are currently using a public and international file sharing offering which is also available to every consumer. The solution works, but there is of course the risk that the access to information in these is loosely controlled. We will be moving their data to a locally based solution which gives the client the ability to set up a company share in the cloud, and then assign specific access rights to each individual as required. This can be by client file, folder, etc. We also have the ability to give certain users the ability to collaborate and edit documents, while others can merely read only.”
These considerations are also one of the reasons J2 Software introduced the Trusted Law solution, a single, secure and easy-to-use solution that solves information compliance requirements – and one that enables POPI compliance. “Trusted Law offers world class security, with a fully compliant email archive in secured data centres, which also aids in increasing and measuring productivity. With our understanding of both POPI and governance requirements, we provide a complete technology solution that also includes the protection of servers and desktops and the enabling of app provisioning on mobile devices with the ability to wipe those devices when required. Governance requirements and POPI have made it essential that companies evaluate their policies and the technology they use to ensure that they effectively enforce those,” Mc Loughlin concludes.
John Mc Loughlin
Managing Director of J2 Software
During 2013 the legal sector continued to recover from the effects of the economic recession, many consumers sought more affordable access to legal services, and technology became more widely adopted in the practice of law. This was an exciting period for legal innovators like LexisNexis South Africa.
South Africa has one of the largest telecommunications markets in Africa and mobile phones have become a popular means of voice and data communication in many sectors including the legal sector. Cell phones are taking the place of computer Internet access; in fact, as recent reports show, more than 60 per cent of South Africans regularly use cell phones to access the Internet.
LexisNexis is addressing this shift through a number of solutions. We’ve made great strides in equipping South Africa’s courts with free wireless technology and solutions that enable legal professionals to stay productive wherever they are.
In 2013 our Wi-Fi facility was rolled out to the following courts: the Constitutional Court, Johannesburg Magistrates’ Court, Pretoria Magistrates’ Court and Mafikeng High Court. This added to the Durban Magistrate court and six other high courts in South Africa that already have this facility. The facility enables legal professionals to access their My LexisNexis accounts, an online research platform for the legal industry, to view law reports, legislation, commentary and practical guidance whilst at court. The service also enables legal professionals to connect via laptops, tablets, cellular telephones and any other electronic devices with wireless connectivity.
Another significant step forward for virtual legal research is our pioneering Digital Self-Help Kiosk concept which is being piloted at the Durban High Court.
During the course of the year we invested heavily in developing and improving our products to make them better suited for mobile usage. Our customers can look forward to further product releases and enhancements in 2014.
Practical content is in great demand. Do-it-yourself solutions are taking preference over standard, less complex legal services. This is evident through the success of our Practical Guidance Solution in the Pacific region and UK: it is the fastest-growing product in both of those markets. Across the UK and Australia more than 2 000 firms have signed up to Practical Guidance, with over 10 000 unique users accessing content.
Our Practical Guidance Solution is the first service of its kind in South Africa. During 2013 we launched three practice areas, namely Labour, Income Tax and Business Law. We plan on more than doubling our practice areas before the end of 2014. Our Practical Guidance Solution provides access to
• Guidance notes containing clear and comprehensive explanations of the law applied to situations that professionals face each day and updated as the law changes
• Forms and precedents drafted by experienced professionals, again updated as the law changes
• Other practical content such as checklists, giving a clear picture of the transaction at hand and ensuring that professionals don’t miss out critical steps.
For more information on our practical guidance solution please click here http://www.lexisnexis.co.za/practicalguidance/
Some significant legislative changes in 2013
Government is in the process of reviewing and amending a number of labour laws. However, as stated by the Department of Labour,” a better understanding of labour legislation and upholding the values that underpin it, would go a long way in addressing South Africa’s labour problems”. It is here that LexisNexis believes our role in facilitating the rule of law is of critical importance. We will continue to provide integrated and skilfully annotated primary sources of law, authoritative commentary, expert guidance and practical tools for a clear understanding of the implications of these developments.
The Basic Conditions of Employment Amendment Act 20 of 2013 is aimed at prohibiting employers from requiring employees to pay to secure employment. It also enforces the prohibition of the employment of children under the age of 15 and provides the Labour Court with exclusive jurisdiction in respect of certain matters.
The Labour Relations Amendment Bill, No. 16 of 2012 which was returned to the National Assembly by the National Council of Provinces with proposed amendments in November 2013. This Bill will have a significant impact on labour relations in the country. When this Bill is enacted and commences it will promote the application of organizational rights to non-standard employees and extend the collective bargaining framework within the workplace.
The Employment Tax Incentive Act 26 of 2013 is aimed at promoting the employment of young people in special economic zones and stimulating job creation. It provides for an employment tax incentive scheme in terms of which the costs of employment will be shared between the government and employers. The initial Bill was contested by COSATU, but was ultimately signed into law on 17 December 2013.
The Employment Equity Amendment Bill, No. 31 of 2012 was passed by the National Council of Provinces on 21 November 2013 and has been sent for assent by the President. Once this Bill is enacted and commences, it will carry out the first substantive amendments to this Principal Act since it was published in 1998. This Bill aims to ensure that only persons who were South African citizens prior to the country becoming a democratic republic in 1994 benefit from employment equity policies. It will also amend the procedure for arbitration disputes in the CCMA. It is clear that the passing of this Bill will also have far-reaching and major effects.
The Women Empowerment Gender Equality Bill, No. 50 of 2013 aims to establish a legislative framework for the empowerment of women, including women and girls with disabilities. This Bill seeks a 50% representation of women in all decision-making structures. The Bill even goes so far as to provide fines and imprisonment for non-compliance.
Further interesting legislative developments in 2013 and beyond.
The Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act 7 of 2013 was introduced to address trafficking in persons holistically and comprehensively. This important statute is the result of close collaboration between various South African government departments and aligns South African law with international standards to advance the fight against what is in effect modern-day slavery.
In support of the battle against human trafficking, LexisNexis introduced the Human Trafficking Awareness Index, an electronic database that gives insight into the scale and social impact of this scourge and the efforts to combat it. Click here http://www.lexisnexis.co.za/ruleoflaw/additional-resources.aspx to download your free copy of the LexisNexis Human Trafficking Awareness Index.
The Protection of Personal Information Act 4 of 2013 was finally signed into law on 19 November 2013 after much controversy. The Act is aimed at promoting the protection of personal information processed by public and private bodies. It has serious implications for organisations that process personal information, such as those in the legal, financial services, healthcare and direct-marketing sectors. LexisNexis is developing a Practical Guidance Solution that deals specifically with the practical implications of this Act. The expected launch date of this solution is March 2014.
The Protection of State Information Bill 6 of 2010 has been sent to the President for assent but has yet to be signed into law. This Bill provides for the protection of sensitive state information. It lays out a system of classification, reclassification and declassification of state information. LexisNexis has released Practical Guide to Media Law, commissioned by NGO Section 16 and written by Dario Milo and Pamela Stein of Webber Wentzel Attorneys, which includes commentary on these important developments.
The highly debated Legal Practice Bill, No. 20 of 2012 aims to transform and restructure the legal profession in accordance with constitutional imperatives. This Bill was passed by the National Assembly in November this year and currently sits before the National Council of Provinces. Specialist commentary and guidance on these significant developments will soon be included in our stable of practice and procedure solutions.
South Africa CEO of LexisNexis