Technology and the innovations it entail has defined a new way of life, taking technology away from the realms of luxury into the arena of everyday endeavours whether in the professions or in matters of lifestyle generally.
In fact, the advance of technology is now fast-tracking the democratization of law and justice in Nigeria, according to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN. Prof. Osinbajo stated this on Thursday in his keynote at the Virtual Law Pavilion Technology Conference with the theme “A New Paradigm in Justice Delivery”. Also at the event, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammed; the President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Paul Usoro, SAN, and others addressed the theme of the 2020 Legal Tech Conference. According to him, “No one believed the day would come when the Supreme Court would, as it has now done, endorse Virtual Court Proceedings. Or that the day will come when e-filing of court processes will be considered medically safer than physical filing of court processes. “Today, even judges, especially older ones, will of course prefer virtual processes to in-person proceedings. Technology and the fourth industrial revolution, are no longer luxuries but they are the inevitable substructure of our new way of life. “For the administration of justice system, change has surely come and I am personally excited to see how easily our entire judicial system is willingly adapting to innovation.” Speaking further on the impact of technology, the Vice President said with technology and innovation, the democratization of law and justice is now on fast-track. According to him, “Tech companies must now innovate even more. We must now have purpose-built virtual-proceedings software that take into account the various needs of trials and other court proceedings. “There will be opportunities for retraining of judicial personnel, lawyers, and paralegal staff, the new normal calls for new skills and new ways of doing old things and doing away with many old habits.” On the need for the entirety of Nigeria’s justice sector to embrace “the new normal”, the Vice President said though no one had predicted that a time would come when authorities would endorse virtual court proceedings, the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated the adoption of technology for all court processes. Referring to the Chief Justice of Nigeria at the event, the Vice President noted that “already, my Lord, the Chief Justice has set the example of adaptation to the new paradigm.” Prof. Osinbajo urged lawyers and stakeholders in the justice sector to be prepared for the times ahead by finding alternative and better ways of delivering legal and associated services. He said “the next few years will see even more changes. Artificial Intelligence (AI) will play a bigger role in our court systems, I am told that Law Pavilion is already pioneering an AI-Powered-Speech-to-Text- Transcription System to replace writing in long hand and even the traditional slow stenographic recording. “There is also the AI-Powered Document Review System that helps judges quickly extract authorities and laws cited in any legal documents, outlines and analyses the principles relied upon automatically, in seconds. This is aside from the comprehensive court proceedings software that they have now perfected.” Continuing, Prof. Osinbajo said “…nothing can ever be the same again. Legal practice is also in a flux. Artificial Intelligence will make research a million times faster, the lawyer may no longer be required for several categories of legal advice. “There are already apps updated to the latest positions in legislation and case law. The lawyer must become a multi-disciplinary, multi-tasking tech savvy person of affairs,” recalling a description he gave to students of law at a recent function. He restated the commitment of the Buhari administration to support technology companies to drive the gradual shift of systems, in the country, to the ‘new normal’. In his contribution, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammed said the judiciary which plays a crucial role in the economic development of Nigeria, must embrace changes within the environment so that it will continue to remain relevant in the scheme of things. The Legal Tech Conference is organized by the Law Pavilion in partnership with TELNET Nigeria Ltd. The conference is a 2-day virtual event featuring other speakers including Supreme Court Justice, Olukayode Ariwoola; Ondo State Chief Judge, Olarenwaju Olutoyin Akeredolu; Borno State Chief Judge, Kashima Zannah; Ekiti State Attorney General and Justice Commissioner, Olawale Fapohunda; and Mr Dapo Akinosun, Partner, SimmonsCooper, amongst others.