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Meet the law firm of the future

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Much like many other industry sectors, legal is being radically transformed by ICT. NERUSHKA DEOSARAN and ROB OTTY believe that those firms that don’t keep up with technology do so at their own peril.

The traditional model of a law firm is in a state of disruption and the future law firm will be driven by leaders who understand technology, efficiency and innovation.  The legal sector is changing rapidly and will continue to transform rapidly.

The law firm of the future:

➢ has lawyers who understand technology.

➢ promotes an innovative mindset.

➢ has an improved organisational structure and business model.

➢ creates new roles, businesses and functions.

➢ delivers innovative products and services to clients.

➢ is efficient and cost-effective.

The deregulation of legal services in England and Wales in 2011 gave birth to organisations like Riverview Law and RocketLaw that have been disrupting the established legal services industry with innovative offerings to clients in competition with traditional law firms.

The Law Society of England and Wales Future of Legal Services report 2016, mentions the following five drivers of change in the legal services market:

1. Globalisation: global and national economic business environments

2. Buyer behaviours: how clients buy legal services

3. Technology: technological and process innovation

4. Competition: new entrants and types of competition

5. External investment: wider political agendas around funding, regulation and the principles of access to justice

The International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) published the Legal Technology Future Horizons report in 2014 highlighting how information technology (IT) is critical to the survival and future growth in the rapidly changing and highly competitive legal services industry.  IT will no longer only be used to provide back-end support to lawyers but to develop client-facing products and services, as well as to improve internal efficiencies.

As these two industries combine, the challenge for the legal industry is to keep up with the fast pace of change that the tech industry is accustomed to.  The challenge for the technology industry is to understand law firms and identify how technologies can be utilised in the legal environment.  The combination of these sectors also gives rise to opportunities for new roles within a law firm, breaking the traditional hierarchy.  For example, a lawyer who can program would be a valuable addition to a law firm.

The Horizons report shows that artificial intelligence is a potential game-changer for the industry with 88% of respondents agreeing that the checking of content and structuring of legal documents will be performed by artificial intelligence software.  Law firms should innovate by using technologies such as big data analytics to process large amounts of data or by using project management techniques to streamline processes to offer increased value to clients.

Law firms should be developing client products and subscription services in addition to providing the usual bill-by-the-hour advice.

The Legal Services Consumer Panel 2020 Legal Services report predicts that there will be “less involvement by lawyers in many of tasks that until now have made up their staple diet”.

There will be greater self-lawyering, use of online services, entry of unregulated businesses and expansion of services of regulated providers, such as accountants and banks.  The Altman Weil 2015 survey of law firms found that the second largest threat to law firm business, after new non-lawyer entrants, is clients’ use of technological tools that reduce the need for lawyers and paralegals.

“If a business is not reinventing itself to adapt to changing market conditions then it is likely it will go into decline or be taken over by those that are better adapted to the new environment.  This statement is no less true for law firms than for any other business,” Says the Law Society of England and Wales Future of Legal Services report 2016.

At Norton Rose Fulbright, we are developing alternative methods of delivering traditional legal services to our clients, including the use of artificial intelligence applications.  We have a global Project 2020 covering a number of initiatives aimed at modernising our global business for the future.  We have also freed innovative lawyers from billable time to focus on developing and delivering the creative thinking and products our clients expect.

* Rob Otty is managing director and Nerushka Deosaran is senior associate and business development manager of Norton Rose Fulbright. Follow them on Twitter on @Rob_Otty and @NerushkaD

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Load-shedding leads
local searches

South Africans are searching in the dark, according to the latest Google Search trends.

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With more 1 million search queries generated in the space of 76 hours, load-shedding was by far the top trending search on Google South Africa this week.

Valentine’s Day came a distant second.

After news emerged last Sunday of the impending stage 3 load shedding, South Africans had generated more than 1-million load-shedding search queries by the time Tuesday came around:

  • “Loadshedding schedule” – generated more than 100k searches on Sunday
  • “Load shedding schedule” – generated more than 100k searches on Sunday
  • “Eskom load shedding” – generated more than 100k searches on Sunday
  • “Load shedding Cape Town” – generated more than 50k searches on Sunday
  • “Load shedding schedule” – generated more than 400k on Monday
  • “Load shedding Johannesburg” – generated more than 20k searches on Monday
  • Load shedding schedule” generated more than 200k search queries on Tuesday

Leading up to Valentine’s Day, South Africans generated close to 300k search queries related to the romantic festival, including searches for quotes and gift ideas:

  • “Valentines Day” generated more than 100k search queries on Thursday
  • “Happy Valentines Day Images” and “Valentines Day Images” generated more than 10k search queries each on Thursday, with “Happy Valentines Day 2019” generating more than 20k search queries on Wednesday
  • “Valentines Day Specials 2019” generated more than 5k search queries on Thursday
  • “Love quotes” generated more than 5k search queries on Thursday
  • “Valentines Day quotes” generated more than 100k search queries and “Valentine messages” generated more than 50 000 search queries on Wednesday

Search trends information is gleaned from data collated by Google based on what South Africans have been searching for and asking Google. Google processes more than 40 000 search queries every second. This translates to more than a billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide. Live Google search trends data is available at https://www.google.co.za/trends/hottrends#pn=p40

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Showmax invites
student films

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Thanks to the growing popularity of video-on-demand services, there’s a new opportunity to help kickstart the careers of local filmmakers.

Numerous Hollywood blockbusters (District 9Tomb Raider 2018, and The Avengers: Age of Ultron to name a few) have featured substantial shoots in Johannesburg and Cape Town. While providing great opportunities for SA’s production talent, aspiring writers and directors don’t get the same benefit.

So where can local creatives showcase their work? Broadcast TV isn’t a natural home for unknown short films, and while self-publishing platforms are readily available hosting options, it’s tough to get noticed and get traffic when competing with videos from across the planet.

But with the emergence of video-on-demand services into the mainstream, there’s now a solution. The African film school AFDA has teamed up with the streaming service Showmax to give local talent a much larger platform than ever before. From 18 February, eighteen of the best recent short films made by AFDA students from their Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth campuses will be live on Showmax. Drama, documentary, fantasy, and animation are all represented, in pieces running from under eight minutes to almost half-an-hour long. The full list of movies is included below.

Teresa Passchier, CEO of AFDA, said: “AFDA, Africa’s number-one school for the Creative Economy, is proud to kickstart this exciting and meaningful journey with Showmax and AFDA students, ensuring emerging young African filmmakers’ voices are heard and given a platform. It’s ground-breaking to share young, local, culturally relevant content on the same platform as Hollywood blockbusters. I am certain that this unique initiative will serve to boost and develop the African film industry and the careers of many young South African and African students alike.”

Included in the short films coming to Showmax are the award winners Junior and O-PunchaJunior, directed by Bert Dijkstra, picked up the Audience Award in the Made in South Africa Competition at the shnit Worldwide Shortfilmfestival Awards 2017. O-Puncha, directed by Adam Hansen, won two awards at the 5th annual Eldorado Film Festival: Best Student Made Short, and Best Editing – Alexander La Cock.

Another celebrated film is Sicela Amanzi directed by Mlu Godola, which talks to the subject of water shortage. The film’s heroine Zoleka is a mild-mannered young woman forced to go to extreme lengths when a small community’s only source of water unexpectedly collapses. The power of films like this is they shine a light on critical topical issues in new ways.

Speaking about working with the film school, Candice Fangueiro, Head of Content for Showmax, said: “There’s immense depth of filmmaking talent in Africa and it’s a privilege to be able to give that talent a home and a platform. Showmax is becoming part of the fabric of film and TV production in Africa, and importantly we’re doing this as a partner rather than just as a consumer. This is a key competitive advantage of being local and something we aim to continue to work on.”

AFDA is an Academy Award-winning institution, founded in 1994, and the first and only African film school to win an Oscar – for the Best Foreign Student film in 2006, the postgraduate film Elalini, directed by Tristan Holmes.

The full list of AFDA short films coming to Showmax is as follows:

Film titleDirectorGenre
Lullaby from the CryptKeenan Lott & Raven DavidsAnimation
Ko Ga CherenyaneSibonokuhle MyatazaDocumentary
IzilwaneKyllian RouxDrama
MallemeuleJaco Van BoschDrama
Canal StreetBrodie MuirheadDrama
On the FenceWarrick BewsDrama
The Righteous FewLindo LangaDrama
Hlogoma PeakLuke AhrensDrama
Frozen FlameCameron HeathmanAnimation
WolfBrett van DortFantasy
The Walk HomeSisanda DyantyiDrama
BearWesley RoodtDrama
JuniorBert DijkstraDrama
O-PunchaAdam HansenDrama
UmngenoSiphosethu NdungeDrama
DoreenLuvuyo Equiano NyawoseDrama
ForeverLindo LangaMusical
Sicela AmanziMlu GodolaDrama

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