INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AVAILABILITY AND UTILISATION AS CORRELATES OF LAWYERS’ PRODUCTIVITY IN NIGERIA
JIDE EDWARD OWOEYE
Matric. No. 60743
A Ph.D POSTFIELD SEMINAR PRESENTED AT THE DEPARTMENT OF LIBRARY,
ARCHIVAL AND INFORMATION STUDIES, UNIVERSITY OF IBADAN, IBADAN
Prof. IYABO MABAWONKU
DATE: 2nd FEB. 2011
1Changes in the universe of legal practice become inevitable due to the dynamic development 2 in information technology systems. The legal practitioners depend on the use of information 3 technology for efficient and effective practice as different sources of information are needed 4 to enhance lawyers’ productivity.
5The study investigated the influence of information technology availability and utilisation on 6 lawyers’ productivity in Nigeria. It also examined the effect of some social and economic 7 variables such as gender and work experience on information technology utilisation.
8 The study adopted the descriptive survey research design. Cluster sampling technique was 9 used to select one thousand three hundred and forty- two (1,342) legal practitioners drawn 10 from thirty- six Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) state chapters including Abuja. One 11 hundred and eighty – five (185) law offices were purposively selected based on availability 12 and use of IT resources. The questionnaires used in this study focused on: availability of 13 information technology, areas of law practice, information technology use, frequency of IT 14 use, lawyers’ productivity and problems associated with IT use while interviews and 15 personal observations were other instruments used to collect the data. The instruments 16 were duly validated with a reliability coefficient of 0.80 and 0.85 respectively using the 17 Cronbach-alpha methods.
18 Data collected were analysed using percentages, mean, standard deviation, multiple 19 regression analysis, the Chi-square statistical technical methods were used to test five 20 stated null-hypotheses at 0.05 levels of significance.
21 The result from hypothesis one indicated a positive correlation between availability of IT 22 resources and lawyers’ productivity, thus r=.160 P<0.05. Hypothesis two revealed that, 23 there was significant relationship between IT resources used and lawyers’ productivity, 24 showing a correlation coefficient r= .293, P<0.05. Hypothesis three showed that there was 25 joint significant effects of IT availability and IT use on productivity. F (2.1339) = 62.773; r 26 = .293 P, < 0.05. Hypothesis four showed there was no significant difference between IT 27 availability and IT use in Lagos State and five other states law offices in Nigeria (Crit-t 28 =1.96, Cal.t= 4.396,df=1,340, P,<0.05). The fifth hypothesis showed there was no 29 significant difference in the productivity of male and female lawyers crit.-t =1.96, Cal t= 30 1.479, P>0.05 level of significance. The study highlighted the influence of IT resources 31 availability and use on lawyers’ productivity in Nigeria. By inference, legal practitioners 32 who used IT resources indicated that they were more productive and in addition, had more 33 economic gains and were effective in their legal practice than those who did not.
34 This finding has implications for effective legal practice in Nigeria as a whole. The study 35 showed heavy dependence of legal practice on utilisation of relevant information 36 technology resources. The study recommended that IT resources should be made available 37 and accessible for use for the benefit of speedy administration of justice in the country. 38This would increase lawyer’s productivity. Adequate IT training skills should be provided 39 for legal practitioners through in-service training, capacity building, conferences, seminars 40 and workshops.
Keywords: Information technology, lawyers’ productivity, Nigeria, availability and utilisation.
Word count: 428.
The advent of the colonial masters in Nigeria brought the Common Law. It is this Common Law and the customary law that have transcended into partly what is called the Court systems known as the Nigerian legal system (Holdsworth, 1976; Omotola and Adeogun, 1987; Gerbert, 1998; Slapper and Kelly 2001 and Abegunde and Adebayo 2008). The legal system is essential to maintain peace, 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 functions are: advocacy, litigation, counseling and preparation of legal documents. A lawyer defends his clients in the court of law by applying the principles of law to the evidence available, through provision of relevant facts. Lawyers enlighten the public of their constitutional rights and ensure that people are not denied 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, private companies and in government institutions. They are usually attached to the legal department of institutions. Those who work in the civil service find themselves in the legal or administrative department of the ministries. They are designated as state counsel, senior state counsel or litigation officers, and senior litigation officers. Lawyers in the civil service like any organization interpret the law, adjudicate and work as administrators. Some lawyers work as lecturers in some institutions like the Law school, Faculty of Law in universities and in some government law research institutions like the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies where the head is called a Director – General, who is under the Attorney – General of the Federation. The main objective is to be the nucleus and hub of research and advance studies in law in Nigeria. Those in the academic environment impart knowledge to law students on how to become lawyers. The official language in Nigerian law court is English language but in a situation where one of the parties in a case does not understand English, an interpreter will be provided.
According to the Council of Legal Education (2008), the Nigerian Law School has trained over 64,404 graduates since its inception in 1963. Some legal practitioners qualified from abroad after which they enroll in the Law School for two years training period that would enable them to be trained in the culture and practice of law in Nigeria. Given an estimated Nigerian population of 140 million the ratio would be 1 to 1,863. Although the ratio of legal practitioners relative to the population is given as 1 to 1,863, legal practitioners are by no means evenly spread throughout the country. Ekundayo (1995) opined that more than 50 per cent of legal practitioners are concentrated in Lagos, which still remains the commercial capital of the nation.
A lawyer depends on information from various sources: such as clients, colleagues, libraries, radio, discs, the Internet etc. This is so because the legal profession is recognized as a “learned profession”. For a person to become a lawyer, he must be knowledgeable not only in law but in all fields of knowledge. No lawyer can be up- to- date in law without reading and digesting law reports relating to cases he is handling (Fagbohun, 1986; Omotola and Adeogun, 1987; Ayua, 1995 and Ekundayo, 1998). References to legal authorities and previously decided cases enhance good submission and this can only be available from a very good library. Law libraries are very important for successful legal practice all over the world. Therefore lawyers cannot be effective without libraries.
Information is power and it is an essential resource to which individuals in every society should have access. Information is a critical variable for the work of a lawyer whether in pre-court preparation, in-court presentation or post court analysis. Information is a constant thread that links people together. According to Mabawonku (2004), information is an essential resource for individual growth and for survival. Information is the raw material for the development of law, its interpretation, application and implementation. It is a major instrument for legal advice, research and policy directives. Information is the critical input to every aspect of legal process.
Information and technology are both dynamic in the way they impact on man’s experience. Over the last half-century, computers have dramatically extended the society’s ability to generate, transfer and analyse information. The internet has widely altered the method of dissemination and the rapid advancements in technology have increased the ability to store and process information. All aspects of the economy and ways of doing business (and presumably people’s ways of life) have been affected by these changes. It is difficult to imagine a vocation that has been unaffected by this phenomenon. The field that has perhaps been most impacted upon is law that deals most directly with information, whether in the course of collecting, processing, or delivering same.
Oketunji (2004), defines information technology as application of computer to cover acquisition, processing, storage and dissemination of information–textual, numerical, pictorial and vocal. Information technology is the use of electronic equipment, especially computers for sorting, storing, analyzing and distributing information of all kinds, including words, numbers and pictures (Adeyinka, 2009). This means that information technology is a broad-based term that encompasses the gathering (acquisition), organization (packaging), storage and retrieval (dissemination) of information. Information, can be textual or numerical (books), documents, pictorial and vocal forms (audio-visuals) or a combination of all the above (multimedia) using a combination of computers and telecommunication (telephones etc).
Many professionals rely on information technology (“IT”) to simplify, automate, or better understand aspects of their work. Some software come in varying degrees of sophistication: less sophisticated tools include word processors, e-mail and instant messaging systems, file servers, and the like, while more sophisticated tools reach into the analytical core of a professional’s work. Although modern law firms and courts are awash in these less sophisticated tools found in many other industries. A broad variety of establishments have incorporated sophisticated data-manipulation techniques in recent decades. Good examples include the use of statistical data-mining techniques to detect credit card fraud (Chan, 1999) as well as the use of related anomaly-detection methods to identify potential terrorist activity (Ayres, 2004; Seifery, 2004 and Cheesman, 2005). Although modern legal practice has adopted IT in many areas, these legal tools do not typically match the sophistication of tools found in other industries. Besides basic office software like word processors and e-mail, law firms often have comprehensive, networked document retrieval systems while courts and government agencies have electronic filing systems.
In Nigeria, some case management systems do include automatic text processing and classification systems. But legal professionals have not yet widely adopted these systems. Given the extensive adoption of IT by other industries, it appears that modern legal practice has somewhat lagged behind because of poor legislative environment in Nigeria. There are some developments for legal practitioners to break this trend. Lawyers are compelled to sift through an ever-growing volume of information. The relatively underdeveloped use of IT in legal practice has left room for significant efficiency gains by eliminating repetition and wasted human resources.
Susskind (1998), cited by Azinge (2002), stated the impact of IT on legal practice and opined that:
legal practice and the administration of justice will no longer be dominated by print and paper in tomorrow’s legal, setting instead, legal systems of the information society will evolve rapidly, under the considerable influence of evermore powerful information technologies, legal professionals will no longer suffer from excessive quantity and complexity of legal materials. There will be mechanism in place to give everyone fair warning of the existence of new laws and changes in the old through the online noter- up service.
According to Omekwu (2002), Information technology is sometimes misconstrued to mean computers. Information technology covers a spectrum of tools and technologies used for all aspects of information handling and management, beginning from information production to its eventual provision and use. The legal practitioner’s work involves a high level of documentation and information processing, storage and retrieval. The information-intensiveness of a lawyer’s responsibilities is such that tools and technologies that would speed up the documentation, management and information handling are not only important but a professional imperative. The value of accuracy, correctness, completeness, relevance and timelessness are characteristics of information which IT systems do generate to meet lawyers’ information needs. The speed, processing and high storage capacity of IT systems is useful to efficient information management and manipulation.
Ayres, (2007) stated that legal professionals have two primary motivations for integrating new information technologies into the practice of law. First, the volume and diversity of data that lawyers must analyze in the course of their work have exploded. Second, the efficiency gains in other industries highlight the cost savings that can be achieved by adopting more sophisticated technology. Legal information takes a great variety of forms. Familiar examples from litigation practice include judicial opinions, court orders, dockets, briefs, transcripts, jury instructions, and verdict statistics. There is also an enormous, but less public, body of transactional materials- such as contracts and licenses, that shape commercial practice, even if such documents are never used in court. In addition to the core materials that would universally be considered “legal” in nature, there are many types of documents that are highly relevant to legal practice. For example, medical textbooks or expert witness reports may be relevant in personal injury cases, while purchase receipts and spreadsheets may be relevant in tax refund suits. The breadth of information types means that legal software must concern itself with written language from a diversity of sources.
Lawyers need a means for dealing with the increasing bulk of legal data. In Common Law jurisdictions, the body of case law expands each year. A large portion of new case law does not overrule old law but instead, refines or adapts old law to new circumstances. Lawyers refer to a wider variety of documents in conducting their research: whereas in the print era research was largely confined to appellate cases bound in official reporters, now legal data services provide online access to “unpublished” appellate cases, lower court orders, briefs, and extra-jurisdictional materials. In some circumstances, changes in the law itself have increased the amount of information lawyers and their clients must process. For example, in 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court approved amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure that required disclosure of a broad class of electronically stored information during litigation.
This change has increased the volume of information available during discovery beyond the high levels that already result from the United States’ liberal discovery rules. Ashley,(2007) concluded that this explosion in the number and type of documents with which lawyers must concern themselves is an open invitation for technological innovation.
Omekwu (2003), posited that computers in the lawyer’s office are useful for the performance of the following functions:
Based on the three major functions above, computers in lawyers offices could be applied in many areas of law practices 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 electronic formats. Judicial decisions and other sources of information germane to the work of lawyers are now available in electronic format. Law reports, judicial decisions, textbooks, and case laws are now available in electronic formats. Many of these materials can only 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.
Katsh, (1994) had written on the emerging generation of digital lawyers and on how to reorient the legal practitioner to cyber space. Widdison, (1995) described a new practice of law on the internet. Two years later Susskind revised his controversial thesis. Wall, (1998) provided empirical evidence to prove how IT is shaping legal practice in United Kingdom. Azinge, (2002) identified five key areas of IT’s relevance to the lawyer. The main points are summarized below:
IT 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. Douglas, (2002) opined that, the search for security can only be achieved through constant change, adapting old ideas that have outlived their usefulness to current facts. Hazard and Rhode, (1985) observed that the work of lawyers is ‘limited by time and space’ which depends on information from one party to another. This simple device combined with their exclusive knowledge enables the legal practitioner to exert considerable control over the legal process. Giddens, (1990) and Cornel, (1990) identified modernity as fundamental changes of time, space and place. Giddens argued that the pace and scope of change that have arisen within new modern institutions have separated modern and traditional social orders. Azinge, (2003) opined that any discussion on information technology (IT) and legal practice is bound to meet the disapproval of a greater percentage of legal practitioners. Consequently, legal practitioners often resist any innovation that is likely to tamper with or alter the age-long approach to the practice of law.
The development in Information Technology (IT) systems provides an alternative platform for legal information production, acquisition, storage, retrieval, interpretation and dissemination. The change which had led to this restriction has not been technology engine per se but the ideas arising from the logic of industrialism which continually seeks to rationalize productive activities by dividing them into their component parts. The technology is only a means by which rationalization can be effected. Of particular interest is the impact of the Internet which, during the past ten years, has revolutionized communication technology. Communications can now take place instantaneously without respect to geo-physical or social boundaries and thus redefine understanding of time, space and place. Moreover, the Internet has provided an infrastructure for the development of cyberspace. Gibson, (1984) Sterling, (1994) and Wall, (1997) defined the internet as a socially constructed abstract space, which is not physically bound. It is within this Virtual community that much of social and intellectual activities are conducted, be it in work, leisure or pleasure.
Thus, human social relationships, once separated by time and space, are united again as the social relationship of production has become redefined by the logic of industrialism. This characteristic will apply just as equally to the legal process and it is perhaps interesting to note that one of the significant growth areas has been the Virtual legal community, which highlights the need to understand the technology of legal practice. However, while the Virtual legal community is an exciting development it is still in its infancy in Nigeria.
For Information 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? Productivity is generally defined by economists as output per hour worked. In the legal industry, the measure that is widely used is the number of billable hours. This measure however is a poor one because billable hours are not what are being produced.
Another measure for lawyer’s productivity would be firm profitability per employee per hour worked. This measure would allow one to measure the effects of technology on productivity in real terms. LaBarre, (1999) suggests that law firms expend a great deal of money on information technology. Presumably they do this because they believe in the power of technology to improve their profitability. A report on productivity produced by Centre for Law Practice Technology, (1999) indicates that:
The logic of measuring productivity by hours generated, ignores the logic of the marketplace, and certainly ignores the competitive pressures resulting from an excess of lawyers’ request.
Law firms have assumed that hours billed equals productivity in terms of creating value for the client… By equating hours billed, a measure of productivity as well as profitability, lawyers have been confusing activity – which has led to increased profitability – with productivity. Pg 42.
The report goes to suggest that using billable hours as means of productivity is flawed and should be replaced with measuring output as objects completed where an object would be items such as filing a patent, finishing a brief, or arguing a case. Any methodology or service that decreases the time in which a business can be completed would then enhance productivity. In Nigeria, only few lawyers bill by the hour but look into other variables in charging their services. e.g. the nature of the case, likelihood of speedy execution, location of the case or jurisdiction etc however, coincident with this change in the notion of productivity there must be change in the manner in which law firms bill their clients. Productivity of lawyers in Nigeria could be measured by revenue generated by lawyers, number of cases won, speedy execution of cases, improve client service approach, enhance professional competence etc.
There are factors inhibiting the productivity of lawyers because of the environment in which legal organizations function in developing nations. (Ajayi, 2001; Magara, 2002; Chisenga, 2004; and Okon, 2005). Examples of these variables include: power supply, maintenance culture, market constraint, manpower, capital, government policy, attitude to change etc. Agba, (2004) opined that it is not an exaggeration to say that information technology availability may facilitate its utilization. The reason is that the types of information technology that are available will be used by lawyers for their job productivity. Availability is one of the key metrics that demonstrates the overall performance of IT system.
Defining and calculating the availability of an IT system from a business perspective is a challenging task. Most of the time IT sectors report availability values that are on the higher side (such as more than 99 percent availability) but business people including legal practitioners, may believe that, there are instances of outages of applications supporting critical business function or outages during core business hours. Although the availability numbers may be “numerically correct” they may not be a time representation of the real business situation. In most business environments such as in legal practice, any business function is supported by several IT applications. Each of these has a different set of core hours e.g. websites may be available 24/7 whereas voice-recognition applications may be used from 8.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m.
There exists the element of uncertainty in the world of organizational effectiveness in the availability and utilisation of information technology vis-a-vis job productivity in legal organisations. This uncertainty becomes pronounced on the possible implications of information technology availability and utilisation in developing countries of the world. Utilisation is a function of availability. Information technology cannot be used without being available. Then, availability and utilisation are functions of productivity. The Federal Republic of Nigeria is located in the western part of Africa. It became an independent state on October 1, 1960, after about 100 years under colonization, and attained a republican status within the British Commonwealth three years after in 1963.
At independence Nigeria consisted of three regions, namely the Northern Region, the Eastern Region and the Western Region. Apart from the Mid Western Region which was carved out of the Western Region in 1964 through the process laid down by the 1963 Republican Constitution, the other five subsequent exercises of creation of states were undertaken by the Military. Because of the multiplicity of these states, they are as a matter of convenience and political expediency grouped into six geo-political zones of North East, North West, North Central, South East, South West and South South. (Oyediran, 1979; Orubuloye, 1983; Falola, 1999; Adegbija, 2003; Levy, 2004 and Williams, 2008) This grouping has not been accorded any constitutional recognition. Since independence, Nigeria has come under military and civil administrations. Nigeria has spent 28 years under the military, she is experiencing her sixth republic of democracy. The Federal Republic of Nigeria is made up of 36 states and a Federal Capital Territory located in Abuja. The states are: Abia, Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Benue, Borno, Cross-River, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekiti, Enugu, Gombe, Imo, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara, Lagos, Nassarawa, Niger, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Oyo, Plateau, Rivers, Sokoto, Taraba, Yobe, Zamfara. There are close to 400 linguistic groups in Nigeria, but the three major languages are Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba, while English is the official language. (Oyediran, 1979; Ake, 1996; Ogbonna and Ekweozor, 2005)
The bedrock, of this study is the application of information technology which is an input that could enhance work productivity of the legal practitioner (Ajayi, 2001; Biddiscombe, 2001; Adeyinka, 1999).
This research will therefore attempt to find out information technology availability and utilisation as correlates of lawyers’ productivity in Nigeria.