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Exploring Law, Tech, and Case Law Updates Webinar

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Exploring Law, Tech, and Case Law Updates Webinar
By Adelaide Howell
Posted: 2024-04-24T18:29:00Z

Unlocking Legal Practice: Exploring Law, Tech, and Case Law Updates Webinar

Summary by Adelaide Howell


This webinar focused on the advancements in technology and how this affects legal proceedings. This webinar was conducted by the South African chapter (SAC) of the IAWJ with Mkhasibe Hlengiwe as the moderator. Our guest speaker was Jared Poole who is the head of the South African Legal Technology Network and focuses his work on the intersections of technology and law. Throughout the webinar Poole discussed a variety of aspects of the growing relationship between technology and legal proceedings, from increased accessibility to the legal system to different laws regarding technology.

           First, Poole began discussing the current legislation surrounding technology. He pointed out that, as tech providers increase, more regulations will need to be put in place by the governments and thus in the future we will see an increase in tech legislation which makes it imperative to understand as they will become more and more integrated in the legal world. Especially when you consider that legislation is enacted to protect the consumers. The first piece of legislation discussed was the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act (2002) which creates the legal procedure for dealing with electronic transactions within Africa, this includes elements such as electronic signatures. The next piece of legislation discussed was the Protection of Personal Information Act (2013) which creates regulation for the processing of public and private entities residing in South Africa. This act is especially important for the client’s privacy and confidentiality. And the last piece of legislation discussed was the Cybercrimes Act (2020) which addresses various different forms of cybercrime and aims to prevent cybercrimes from disrupting legal proceedings as well as protection from cyber threats as a whole. This act was amended later to include a protection clause against cyber bullying as well as other issues. The South African police force has a standard operating procedure (SOP) that deals specifically with cyber-attacks; however, complications arise as there is a distinction between the jurisdiction and the location of the crime.

           Poole then moved on to discuss Artificial Intelligence and the increasing need for legislation surrounding AI. Firstly, AI can be understood as a simulation of human intelligence using machines. These machines are programmed to think and learn like humans as well as emulate the human process to improve interaction with humans. As it stands there are not many laws regarding AI in South Africa. Unlike the EU, which is the current world leader in AI legislation with their primary motivation being to protect their citizens. The primary act being the Artificial Intelligence Act (AIA) which evaluates and deals with AI in a three-tiered system of varying risk levels and their responses. One element that the AIA takes into account is the progression of technology and how tech progresses much faster than law progresses, thus the AIA has safeguards that allow for such a progression without new legislation being required. With all of these laws it is important to note that officials need to access the data directly which means they must be careful about how warrants are obtained.

           Moving on to discuss the legal precedents from which we can put the legislation from above into real life application, Poole brought up several cases that serve as precedent regarding tech law. The first being Spring Forest Trading v. Wilberry (2014), which discusses the use of email to cancel a formal agreement terminating a contract. The next case being CMC Woodworking Machinery Ltd v. Pieter Odendaal Kitchens (2012) where the defendant fired his legal team and evaded service, social media was used to contact the avoidant defendant to bring forward the processes of court, this shows how technology can be used to serve people legal proceedings if they are otherwise unreachable. The next case mentioned is K v. Transnet Ltd t/a Portnet (2018) where the court allowed the applicant to provide evidence via video link because the applicant was unable to travel to the court. This shows how technology can be used to make the justice system more accessible. Each of these precedents show that the law must be adapted to include technology in legal proceedings, however the work is not done yet. As technology continues to advance so must the legislation surrounding technology so that there is not a gap in the law.

           Poole then moved on to discuss the latest legal developments. These being CaseLines which allows for digital access and management of case files, virtual appearances which allows for a more expedient access to the justice systems, online repositories (such as LexisNexis) which allow for online access of legal documents, and collaboration tools (such as Zoom) which allows for the faster generation of documents between multiple people.

           Poole concluded his talk with a discussion on how to reduce risks associated with tech in practice. His main advice when it came to this was to keep it simple, and make sure you understand the program, if you do not then find a program that you can understand. You must also monitor your performance and compare it to the old way you did things, as well as embrace improvement and not be resistant to change. Also discussed was the increasing presence of deep fakes. Which is where you can take an original piece of content (a video most likely) and then super impose it to say what you want it to say. These deep fakes are very realistic and often fool their intended audience into thinking that they are real. However, to distinguish what is real and what is a deep fake you should watch the facial features for any misalignment as well as the mouth because the mouth may not line up correctly to the sound which is a clear sign that it is a deep fake.

In conclusion, this webinar provided valuable insights into the evolving intersection of law and technology. Led by Jared Poole who did a great job at delving into crucial legislative frameworks governing electronic transactions, data protection, cybercrimes, and the emerging realm of Artificial Intelligence. Through compelling legal precedents and real-world applications, Poole emphasized the necessity of adapting legal systems to accommodate technological advancements. Furthermore, the discussion highlighted innovative tools like CaseLines and virtual appearances, underscoring the transformative potential of digital platforms in legal practice. Poole's advice on mitigating tech-related risks emphasized simplicity, understanding, and adaptability, crucial qualities in navigating the complexities of modern legal landscapes. As technology continues to evolve, the legal community must remain vigilant in updating regulations and practices to ensure equitable access, protection of rights, and effective administration of justice in the digital age.