The rules of legal practice are highly localized. Each country has rules that determine how lawyers are professionally qualified and what they are allowed to do.

When a lawyer licensed to practice in one country provides legal services in another country, it is known as cross-border legal work or cross-border legal work. Many countries have regulations that limit the services that foreign lawyers can provide.

Restrictions vary by country. For example, in Nigeria, foreign lawyers are not allowed to practice any form of law, be it Nigerian law, home country law or international law, unless they are licensed as local lawyers.

A recent study by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development found that restrictions on cross-border legal activity were the most common form of trade restrictions among the 50 countries surveyed. The most restrictive barriers were nationality or residency requirements.

These limitations tend to be justified for two reasons. One is to protect the public from incompetent legal professionals. Protect local lawyers from competition from foreign lawyers.

However, these regulatory approaches do not take into account that technology facilitates the provision of legal services across borders.

My doctoral research focuses on the role of technology in cross-border legal practice. I explore technology's ability to make the practice of law borderless.

In a recent paper, I argued that because technology is transnational, it is disrupting traditional notions of jurisdiction and regulation associated with practicing law across borders. Regulation is essential for the proper functioning of society, especially to protect users of services, but when such regulation stifles innovation and competition, it actually prevents the people it purports to protect from accessing services. gone and no longer available at affordable prices.

Therefore, I would like to encourage legal regulators to review the current rules regarding cross-border activities. This is especially necessary in countries that have a lot of direct trade with each other or have similar legal systems.

In my research, I identified three ways in which technology is impacting cross-border legal practice.

  • Lawyers can provide services virtually

  • Law firms don't need a physical location

  • Many legal services can be automated and made more affordable.

Cross-border services

Communication technology has enabled lawyers to provide legal services across borders. Clients can access these services from anywhere in the world.

As a result, virtual law firms have emerged. Their practice separates legal services from geographic limitations.

Additionally, law firms are increasingly outsourcing tasks such as document review and drafting. Companies offering this service may be based in countries like India or the Philippines, where labor costs are lower. The largest include Lex Outsourcing in India and Flatworld in the Philippines. Integreon and Axiom are also major players in this market, with operations in multiple locations including the US and UK.

They produce high-quality work and use technology to do their work from anywhere in the world, regardless of whether the lawyer is licensed to practice law in the country where the work is used. Given this reality, restrictive laws governing cross-border legal activities need to be reevaluated.

Accessibility and affordability

Lawyers are using technology to establish offices that exist “virtually” without a physical presence. Because we do not maintain a brick-and-mortar office, we are able to provide cost-effective legal services. This trend, known as NewLaw, allows lawyers to offer innovative services at lower costs than traditional law firms.

This trend is creating opportunities for lawyers to engage in cross-border legal practice. It also helps navigate different regulatory regimes.

As a result of advances in technology, particularly seamless communication across borders via the Internet, cross-border legal practice rules, drafted with locality and physical territorial boundaries in mind, have made it easier for activities conducted online. is not effective in regulating. Therefore, these rules need to be reconsidered and adapted.

Automation of legal tasks

Legal technology can automate, support, and enhance many aspects of legal practice. McKinsey estimates that 23% of a lawyer's work could be automated and performed more efficiently.

In a 2018 study, an AI model completed a contract review task in 26 seconds with 94% accuracy, while 20 experienced lawyers took 92 minutes to complete the same task with 85% accuracy. I did.

Legal technology has the potential to generate legal documents and conduct legal research using databases with vast repositories of information from multiple jurisdictions. This could improve the ability of lawyers to serve clients in cross-border transactions.

Regulatory approaches need to be modernized

The global legal technology market was valued at USD 29.8 billion in 2021 and is projected to reach USD 68.04 billion by 2034.

This shows that the impact of technology on legal practice cannot be ignored.

My findings demonstrate that regulatory approaches need to adapt to the changing nature of cross-border legal practice.

However, for a developing country like Nigeria, the process of liberalizing cross-border legal practice is not an easy one. Nigeria has a population of over 200 million people, but the number of lawyers is less than 200,000. There is only one lawyer for every 1,000 Nigerians. By contrast, Brazil, which has a population similar to Nigeria's, has about 2 million lawyers. The country has the highest lawyer-to-citizen ratio in the world, with one lawyer for every 164 people.

Research shows that many Nigerians cannot afford legal services.

Despite these barriers, protectionism continues.

Liberalization efforts must recognize the globalization of legal services enabled by technology, while respecting the uniqueness of local legal systems and traditions.

Current regulations regarding cross-border legal practice risk becoming outdated unless these issues are carefully considered.

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