In this podcast, Nicolene tells Africa Legal’s resident technophile, Tom Pearson, about how pushing the boundaries enabled her to build a business that is now the epitome of what a modern legal service business can look like.
“When I established SchoemanLaw Inc, I wanted lots of flexibility so I embraced technology to support my own motives,” she says. What gradually emerged was a highly efficient and cost-effective service that has been embraced by clients.
In the podcast Tom asks if this way of practising law is likely to spark a “tech revolution” in Africa, but Nicolene says there are still too many hurdles to overcome before the full benefit of tech will be felt by Africans. “Connectivity, for one,” she says. “And this is also not only because of technical limitations, but because many people can’t afford to buy data. Until people can afford data we cannot use technology to bridge the access to justice divide,” she says.
For lawyers though, leveraging technology can be the answer to a prayer and enhance their value. By using tech to complete more mundane legal functions tasks, lawyers can free up time and have more physical and mental energy to deal with issues creatively. Technology should enhance the lawyer’s offering rather than replace it, she says.
The challenge though, still lies with the end-user, many of whom lack confidence and trust is some of the tech offerings available. Nicolene uses the example of internet banking, and then mobile banking, to illustrate how end-users need to be helped to the point of fully embracing what technology can do. To manage this, SchoemanLaw Inc has developed a tool called “Pocket Advisor” to marry the learning and implementation of experience. To enable people to fully take the next step into a world where technology can fulfil a job that in the past they would have entrusted to a certain kind of person with a certain kind of look, the lawyer, “really has to be human”, Nicolene says.
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