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Information Communication Technology (ICT) is an umbrella term that includes all technologies for the manipulation and communication of information. The work of legal practitioners involves a high level of documentation and information processing, storage, and retrieval. The information intensiveness of a lawyer’s responsibility is such that tools and technologies that would speed up the documentation, management and information handling are not only important but professionally necessary. The value of accuracy, correctness, completeness, relevance and timeliness are characteristics of information which ICT systems do generate to meet lawyer’s information needs.
The role of lawyers in any society is essential. In the early days, before the coming of the Europeans, each community in Nigeria had its own system of rules and practices regulating human behaviour. These were undocumented but known to all. Penalties which ranged from ostracism, payment of fines, and community service with close monitoring. With the advent of colonial masters, the common law of England was introduced and customary law with some modifications was retained. It is the common law and customary law that have evoloved into the court systems that are the Nigerian legal system (Holdsworth, 1976, Omotola and Adeogun, 1987 and Gerbert, 1998).
The legal system is essential to maintain stability and order in the society. Lawyers in any civilized society settle fundamental human rights, disputes and clashes. A legal practitioner in Nigeria is a barrister as well as a solicitor whose primary duties are; advocacy, litigation, counseling, preparation of legal document, etc. A lawyer defends his client (s) in the court of law by applying the principles of law to the evidence available, by providing relevant facts. Lawyers enlighten the public of their constitutional rights and ensure that people are not deprived of their fundamental human rights such as freedom of association, speech, opinion, religion etc.
Ekundayo (1995) and Oyebode, (2005) pointed out that, the services of lawyers are needed in almost all human endeavours such as banks, insurance, companies, government institution etc. Omekwu, (2003) posited that computers in a lawyer’s office are useful for the performance of the following functions to:
- check and input information and ensure correctness and completeness.
- sort information into designed sequence, store data for future reference and use.
- refer lawyers to previously stored information, carry out calculation functions, analyze and summarize data.
Based on the three major functions above computers in lawyers offices could be applied in many area of law practice such as litigation, advocacy, criminal law, commercial law, environmental law, insurance, etc.
Omekwu (2004) also indicated that, the use of digital technology has led to migration of lawyer’s instrument of trade to electronics formats. Judicial decisions and all other sources of information germane to the work of lawyers are now available in electronic format. Many of these materials can be accessed online. Many legal scholars, researchers and judicial officers have all discussed how these developments will impact on legal practice now and in future.
Eke (2006) wrote that ICT is impacting different sectors of Nigerian economy, especially in legal profession. Due to the importance of ICT in the development of Nigerian legal system, there is a paradigm shift from acquisition of print information resources to electronic resources in law libraries. For instance, availability of the Internet or related computer network (such as Local Area Network) can provide quick access to relevant legal information in electronic format in law libraries than is manually possible. Hence, effective adoption and use of ICT in law libraries will be immensely beneficial for sustainable development in Nigeria by ensuring that relevant and current information is made available for legal practice for enhanced productivity.
Katsh, (1994) had written on the emerging generation of digital lawyers and on how to re-orient the legal practitioner to cyber space. Widdison (1995) described a new practice of law on the internet. Wall (1998) provided empirical evidence to prove how IT is shaping legal practice in United Kingdom. Azinge (2002) identified five key areas of IT relevance to lawyers. The main points are summarized below;
- Internet access to judicial decisions; with basic IT facilities like a personal computer, a dial-up or wireless connectivity. A lawyer can now access judicial decisions of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, and all the House of Lord Judgments. The same is applicable to the judgments of many U.S. Courts. Online legal databases like Lexis/Nexis and Westlaw are already a practical experience of legal professionals in developed countries.
- Electronic Communication: Digital technology provides the platform for lawyers to:
- transmit and receive messages from clients, colleagues and the court system.
- gain access to the internal know-how of the institutional memory of a law firm and
- provide access to information on specific subject matters.
- Documentation is a cardinal aspect of the legal institution responsibilities. The legal process is undoubtedly documentation-intensive. Whether in drafting agreements for clients, or legislative drafting or litigations, preparing writs or even judges writing their judgments.
- Litigation support service. Information technology is relevant to the lawyers’ management and control of the diverse documents which they have to master in order to advance and prepare their clients’ case. It relates to efficient use of IT systems for the efficient storage and speedy retrieval of such documentation.
- IT system allows a lawyer to work on many documents simultaneously while at the same time downloading materials from the internet. He can copy and paste one document to another or from one section of document to another.
- ICT is also relevant in the area of basic text retrieval, use of CD-ROM systems and quicker and more qualitative service to clients and cooperation between counsel, clients, courts and law investigation and enforcement institutions.
However, it is worthy to mention that ICT use in developing countries has been hindered by many problems which include; insufficient fund allocation, inadequate manpower requirement, power outages, prohibitive cost of importation of hardware, software and the accessories of ICT, conservatism on the part of management and unfavourable government policies. Others include; lukewarm attitude towards alleviating the sufferings of academic institutions by the government, lack of training culture in ICT skills, inadequate infrastructures such as personal computers and communication facilities. Ogunleye (1997); Adeyemi, (2002); Chifwepa (2003); Ikem and Ojo (2003); Ibeagwan (2004); Badu (2004); Osunade and Ojo (2006) and Olalude (2007).
According to Aina (2004), ICT has become an important field for all information professionals. This is because of its relevance and application to tasks in libraries and information centres. He further explained that the major application of ICT to information professionals is in the areas of networking, online searching, CD-ROM technology, library automation and the Internet. Also Odunewu and Olashore (2009) reported that information and communication technologies have been dominant in information provision, processing and handling. Through the use of Internet a user is able to access through ICT bibliographic and full text information in several millions document descriptors used for describing the documents needed.
For information communication technology to be meaningful there must be result, output or productivity. Productivity in economic term is described as output per hour. In the manufacturing sector the process of calculating productivity is straight forward while in the service industry it is more difficult to calculate. This is so because; it is difficult to quantify exactly how output should be measured. For instance, how does one measure the productivity of a lawyer? Do we measure the amount of revenue he generates, the number of clients he attends to, or perhaps, the number of cases he successfully wins in the court? Generally, productivity is defined as output per hour worked. In the legal industry, the measure that is widely used in developed nations (USA, UK, Germany, etc.) is the number of billable hours. This method is however, a poor one, because billable hours are not what are being produced.
Another measure of lawyer’s productivity would be firm’s profitability per employee per hour worked. This measure would allow one to measure the effects of technology on productivity in real terms. In Nigeria, only few lawyers bill by the hour but look into variables in charging their clients, e.g., the nature of case, likelihood of speedy execution, position and wealth status of person (s) in involved, environment (location) of the case, etc.
However, there should be a consensus on how productivity should be measured. The bedrock of this study is the application of ICT which is an input that could enhance work productivity of the legal practitioner. This study will therefore attempt to find out information communication technology use as predictor of lawyers’ productivity in Lagos state, Nigeria.
Objectives – considering the crucial roles of ICT in the society, the main objective of this study is to investigate ICT usage as predictor of lawyers’ productivity in Lagos State, Nigeria.
While the specific objectives are to:
1. identify the available ICT resources in the law firms of Lagos State.
2. determine the extent to which ICT resources are used for lawyers’ productivity in the law firms of Lagos State.
3. identify the areas of ICT use in the law firms of Lagos State.
4. identify the problems associated with ICT use in the law firms of Lagos State.