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Changes impacting dynamics of in-house law
The recently promulgated Legal Practice Amendment Act 16 of 2017 (LPAA) will further embrace constitutional imperatives to reflect the diversity and demographics of South Africa and have far reaching consequences in terms of the way in which the legal sector is regulated and operates.
Yoni Balkind, industry expert and head of Practical Guidance at LexisNexis South Africa feels that although the industry has been disrupted by the LPAA and ongoing regulatory amendments such as the GDPR, legal professionals who have embraced technology are well positioned to adapt. “These changes represent a new scope of opportunity for the legal trade and in-house counsel in particular,” Balkind says.
“The requirement for in-house counsel to be well-versed in a variety of facets and practice areas of law is nothing new. But the global trend within corporates towards reliance on in-house counsel and outsourcing of legal processes - as opposed to contracting larger law firms to handle all legal requirements - has resulted in increased prospects for legal practitioners wanting to move in-house,” says Balkind. “Traditionally the legal profession has been considered resistant to change. This is perhaps why larger law firms are losing legal professionals to corporates who are embracing the role and scope of in-house counsel.”
However, for this transition to result in work and cost efficiencies, corporates will need to prioritise the investment in legal technology. With the online world gaining increasing dominance as a pivotal force in all industries, legal technologies have been developed to help legal experts perform their roles - including research – in a more efficient and effective manner, eliminating large amounts of time previously required poring through hard copy resources.
“Better knowledge management will increase capacity and through legal tech platforms such as Lexis Practical Guidance - the first of its kind in South Africa – provide legal professionals with easy-to-use practical aids, conveniently accessible from a single platform. This essentially equips in-house counsel with access to a team of legal experts in any one of the 30 practice areas available,” says Balkind.
Where corporates previously outsourced their legal requirements to a range of external legal experts, they are now, through the advent of legal tech, able to empower their in-house legal teams with access to online research and functionalities that enable them to complete tasks such as the drafting of contracts, policies and compliance programmes.
“The Amendments relating to the Legal Practice Council under the Legal Practice Act of 2017, which will come into full effect on 01 November 2018, will see the Legal Practice Council positioned as the singular regulatory body. This body will govern the conduct of both attorneys and advocates as one body. The revision will also see in-house counsel for corporates being able to approach advocates directly, which will see further cost efficiencies for these organisations,” Balkind says. “The way in-house counsel operate has been revolutionised, but practical help and guidance is at hand!”