The Embrace of Information Technology in The Legal Profession2
The Legal Profession which was hitherto known for its conservatism and traditionalism has been enhanced by technological advancement no thanks to globalization which has swept through various aspects of the society.Information and Communication Technology (ICT) now plays a major role in the legal profession with notable influence in research, drafting, advisory and litigation practice. It has even become increasingly clear that Law Firms who don’t embrace the adept use of ICT in their practice would be left behind.The embrace of ICT by Legal Practitioners is quite significant due to the need to offer legal services on platforms that require purely technological means. The Corporate Affairs Commission and the Probate Registry are examples of institutions where Legal Practitioners offer their services and both have made their process almost completely online.
Legal Research and Drafting has also been made relatively easy with the aid of online legal software such as LawPavillon and LexisNexis. The age of spending long hours, buried over volumes of case laws in the library has been drastically reduced.In Litigation, through Case laws and Rules of Court, Courts have held that service of processes through electronic means is good service, and now Litigants and Counsels are required to supply their email address and telephone numbers on processes. Court of Appeal Rules 2016 (O2, R10)
In COMPACT MAINFOLD AND ENERGY SERVICES V PAZAN SERVICES NIG LTD SC. 361/ 2017, the Supreme Court Per Paul Adamu Galinje; held that
“I hold the view that at this age of prevalence of information technology, the service of hearing notice through text message by the registrar of court is good and sufficient notice“
The Court of Appeal in CONTINENTAL SALES LTD V R. SHIPPING INC, citing the dictum of Salami J.C.A (as he then was) in TRADE BANK PLC V CHAMI (2003) 13 NWLR (PT. 836) 158 AT 216 – 217 stated thus:
“Although the law does not talk of “computer” and “computer print outs”, it is not oblivious to or ignorant of modern business world and the technological advancements of the modern jet age.”
The Court in the case of BERMITH LINES LTD V. HIGH SEAS SHIPPING LTD held thus:
“where a party is to be served by ‘electronic means’, the party whom is to be served or his legal representative must previously have expressly indicated in writing to the party serving that he is willing to accept service by electronic means.
However, the question on the lips of some practitioners is ‘How do you proof service of court processes through electronic means? Service of court process is a fundamental issue in our adversarial system of administration of Justice. When service is not effected where it is required, the proceedings conducted are a nullity, as improper service or lack of service is a fundamental vice which vitiates the proceedings. Many have expressed their challenges and reluctance in embracing service vide electronic because of the process of proving same.
In my opinion, proof of service vide electronic means isn’t an insurmountable challenge. Court rules have provided for an affidavit of service which is prepared by the sender to show the details of the service made. This can be replicated too by making an affidavit of service showing what was served, by whom, when and vide which electronic means?