IT & the Lawyer

Always on

Broadband Internet access via Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL), which has been available in South Africa for some time, offers law firms new levels of efficiencies in communication. Broadband is a high speed "Always on" Internet access method that gives law firms and other businesses the ability to source information and communicate more quickly and efficiently than traditional dial-up services. Broadband's high access speed and its instant availability make it especially useful when firms want to improve their internal efficiencies as well as their external communications.

Faster Internet access speeds give law firms an opportunity to focus on electronic business (e-business), or more to the point electronic-law (e-law) methods previously unavailable or considered. E-business technologies are a collection of technologies that make use of the Internet. These include web sites, browsers, electronic procurement software, intelligent database search engines, co-operative working packages, and many other technologies. The Internet itself is just a collection of computers networked together using public telephone lines, leased lines and other equipment which allow companies to share information amongst themselves as well as their clients.

Rapid changes in the business and legal environment are becoming an increasingly important issue. These changes have been caused by many factors, including the pace of technological developments, more diverse and ever-changing niche markets, increased competition, and demanding clients with increasing expectations.

For law firms, providing superior client service requires attorneys to stay in constant contact with clients and to have access to all case-related research materials, thereby maintaining the progress of matters, even when lawyers are working offsite. Attorneys require reliable, fast system access so that they can check e-mail, conduct legal research, and access and edit key legal documents remotely.

In South Africa, ADSL allows business clients with high-speed access to connect single PCs or entire local area networks (LANs) to the Internet. ADSL-enabled service provides fast, reliable, dedicated Internet access digitally over standard copper telephone wires at a lower cost than standard Diginet circuits.

The benefits to law firms for adopting permanent Internet access as well as developing a strategy for the development of a company e-business strategy include:

  • Faster sending and receiving of e-mails due to more bandwidth being made available by permanent Internet connectivity;
  • Faster access to research material on the Internet;
  • Sharing case information;
  • Sharing of case-related documents - many extranets contain document repositories that can be searched and viewed by both lawyer and client on-line;
  • Calendaring - key dates and scheduling of hearings and trials can be shared on-line
  • Providing firm contact information;
  • Acting as a "work flow engine" for various suppliers and, if properly designed, can speed up the completion of very complex processes between lawyer, client and/or third parties;
  • Providing access to firm resources remotely;
  • Sharing time and expense information;
  • Ability to work from home and catch up while travelling - remote office using Terminal Services;
  • On-line web applications such as SAHL bond tracker, which before was not possible because of poor speed; and
  • Uses same copper line as current analog line.
Given the complexity of the business and organisational issues involved in developing an e-business strategy, a comprehensive analysis involving strategic, technical and organisational assessments is recommended. Currently permanent Internet access can be sourced from a number of vendors or directly from Telkom. Below is a list of the monthly fees for Telkom's ADSL offerings.
Monthly Consumer
Line Rental HomeDSL 192* R 329.00 p/m (incl. VAT)
Line Rental HomeDSL 384* R 449.00 p/m (incl. VAT)
Line Rental HomeDSL 512 * R 599.00 p/m (incl. VAT) Was R680.00
Monthly Business
Line Rental BusinessDSL 512 * R 699.00 p/m (incl. VAT) Was R800.00

*The monthly rental excludes phone line rental.
*The monthly fee excludes call charges made to the Internet access POP number.

By way of further information the following points are worth noting:
  1. The rental for the entry level home connection (196 Kbit/sec) will drop from R329 to R270 from 1 August 2005.
  2. There is no call charge to connect to the ISP POP (see my initial comment). However there is a monthly charge levied by the chosen ISP and this is higher for ADSL than for analogue dial-up or ISDN. If one chooses as the ISP this amount is R199 per month for the entry level service (in comparison with R79 for a simple dial-up subscription).
  3. There is an installation charge of about R400 for ADSL while the conversion of an existing analogue line is cheaper.
  4. The ADSL line can also simultaneously be used to make normal telephone calls or send/receive faxes. Filters are required for this, but they cost only about R50. Such calls are chargeable as normal.
  5. Some additional hardware - an ADSL modem - is required by the user. Telkom will provide this "free" provided a 24-month contract is signed. However this is probably a poor idea, since costs are expected to drop further and the modem should cost under R1000. In fact, it is a good idea to purchase a combination device that acts as a modem, router and firewall in one. NetGear is the premier brand at present (Duxbury is the local distributor).

Leave a comment:

Security Picture (click to change)
Word shown in picture:
menu close

Search Articles