For our most recent case-study we spoke to long-standing member of the legal profession, David Spain. By his own admission David is no technology expert, however he has discussed with us the ways in which digital technologies have been affecting the legal industry in Australia.
The Spain family have been solicitors in NSW since 1838, and are now headed by principal David Spain who was admitted as a barrister in 1972. In 1983 he changed rolls to solicitor and has been practicing on the Gold Coast (as Spains Solicitors & Attorneys), and at Nimbin (as Nimbin Law) since then. Spains, and Nimbin Law as a branch office, offer a portfolio of legal services as seen at their website.
Businesses should accept the potential of digital technologies and do their best to use them to advantage.
How have your customer needs been changing in the face of digital technologies?
Most of our clients are now comfortable with having little face-to-face contact and with transmitting & receiving information and materials digitally. Only about 5%, mostly older people, still prefer to operate in a ‘traditional’ manner. The remaining customers may expect an initial consultation, but thereafter they expect and prefer to communicate remotely. This intrudes less on their everyday lives, and on ours.
How has your legal practice and the industry as a whole adapted to the changing customer needs?
The legal industry has been experiencing a range of changes as a result of digital technologies. The way we communicate with clients has become largely digital, with much of the correspondence taking place as email or attached scans over digital mediums. Materials, including correspondence, documents large & small, advice, pleadings, photographs, plans and the like can now be transmitted to, or received from, clients online; hence saving paper, speeding communication and reducing transportation & storage costs.
Legal research has also become much more efficient, with a wide range of sources (such as legislation, case law and learned commentary) now being available online both freely to the public or by private subscription. Online solutions such as LexisNexis provide (at a cost) extensive bodies of information at the practitioner’s fingertips. There are also a number of databases that can be used to access resources. Searches, for instance on land titles or company structure or bankruptcy status, can be efficiently completed online. Central precedent banks, kept updated by specialists, allow access by subscription to information that is up-to-date, and the most recent contract versions can be downloaded as required.
We can now file & receive pleadings electronically online, track the progress of cases, and set down interlocutory or trial hearings online, which is beneficial for us and for court administrators themselves. The courts and government departments are taking advantage of digital technology by allowing teleconferencing in certain circumstances, such as for giving of procedural directions or hearing remote witnesses. We recently conducted an online hearing Directions Hearing interstate, which provided significant savings on travel time and cost especially in the case of minor hearings.
Filing online speeds the process, allows resources to be accessed from any location and reduces risks of physical loss or damage. Payment of stamp duty online has been possible for some years and indeed, the online conduct of entire conveyances, including settlements and registration, is imminent.
With digital communication, the industry is improving the ease and efficiency in which it can meet the needs of customers and practitioners.
What changes do you predict for the future of your organisation with the implementation of the NBN?
We expect to see a large increase in the adoption of online filing and teleconferencing. While these practices are already in use there is still a long way to go. The growing prominence of cloud computing platforms and the potential for high-definition teleconferencing from the NBN should only increase the adoption rates.
With current broadband speeds, which are currently relatively slow out here in the bush, bottlenecks can arise when trying to transfer large files and images. We expect the NBN to increase this capacity and hence the ability to easily receive materials from our clientele.
What advice do you have for other businesses who want to maximise their use of web technologies?
We have never been technology or IT experts, but we have aimed to embrace & utilize the technology available to us right since the early emergence of computers. Businesses should accept the potential of digital technologies and do their best to use them to advantage.