Perchstone and Graeys LP invites you to the Public Lecture themed “Resolving Disputes in an Environment Disrupted by Technology”


The public lecture being hosted by the commercial law firm of Perchstone & Graeys LP on Friday, December 10, 2021, under the theme ‘ Resolving Disputes in an Environment Disrupted by Technology,” is a tribute to Mr. Folabi Kuti, a Partner at the firm who was conferred, along with other luminaries in the Nigerian firmament, with the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) on Wednesday, December 8, 2021.

More than that, though it is also a window into the pedigree, essence and future projections of Perchstone and Graeys LP, a firm with a proud history of positioning itself at the critical nexus between the deft deployment of cutting edge technology in its mode of operations, and a business model characterized by an eye on the bigger picture and the long game.
In an age of technological disruption – also known as the internet or digital age – many are waking up to the reality of the far-reaching impact of technology in our daily lives. Artificial Intelligence (or AI), for instance, has become a veritable tool for resolving labour and employment disputes in a given organization. Not only that, technology is also disrupting the way in which disputes arise in the first place, as well as how they are managed and resolved between contractual parties.

Given the sensitivity of internal employment matters, virtually every established organization these days dedicates a department to handle matters emanating therefrom. From recruitment to termination of employment and everything in between, a lot could go wrong in the employee-employer relationship, which could escalate into messy legal suits, in the wake of which an organization could face hefty fines, not to mention the damage to its reputation. Considering all these, an organization spends sizable sums in recruiting and training Human Resources personnel, as well as engaging specialised external lawyers to provide the required advisory and litigation services.

However, the wheels of justice, as the saying goes, grind slowly – even in the field of labour and employment. Employment-related court cases have been known to last between 10-15 years, in some cases outliving the concerned employee or even the organisation itself. The establishment of the National Industrial Court in Nigeria was an attempt at the speedy resolution of labour and related matters.

Whist this development has greatly reduced the average duration for the determination of labour matters, a given matter still typically takes between one and two years to resolve, a situation that most organizations can ill afford.
Which raises the following questions: What if technology can help? What if an organisation’s internal dispute resolution processes can be automated, and rules-based programmes can be a guide in resolving disputes? What if strict legal procedures for disciplining an erring employee can be automated and sequentially triggered – thus reducing mis-steps by an employer’s disciplinary committee? Conversely, what if employees can safely report sensitive cases such as harassment and initiate investigations into them with the use of tech solutions?
Obviously, the automation referred to above must be trusted by both employer and employee as not being biased one way or another.

This requires the collaborative efforts of both parties to determine the practicable procedures in resolving issues that may arise in the course of their relationship. This trust-building collaboration must be characterized by rules such as who can be part of a disciplinary committee; who can receive a report; the duration of suspension pending investigations for alleged wrong; calculation of benefits, etc. These criteria can be fed into the AI, depending on the specifics of each case.

The use of technology to resolve labour-related matters is not a new phenomenon. Organizations have long used technology to sample opinions, for instance, and the aggregation of these opinions have formed the bedrock upon which corporate decisions are built. Some organizations have gone even further to use technology in matters relating to whistle-blowing. These initiatives have encouraged inclusiveness and enhanced the quality of decision-making, while ensuring confidentiality for the employee. Also, many organizations employ technology in their employee-assessment and evaluation exercises, based on clearly-defined key performance indicators (KPIs). Based on the outcome of these evaluations, the AI also sets out the appropriate process for reward or otherwise.

If properly deployed, therefore, AI creates a measure of certainty, confidentiality, trust, efficiency and even affordability, as well as reduces pitfalls by encouraging proper procedures in decision-making. It also reduces the chances of incurring losses arising from judicial decisions.
Of course, there is also the very real danger of these disruptive technologies actually replacing people in workplaces – hence the fear that AI-enabled dispute resolution technologies could even displace the need for (litigation) lawyers. This concern, however, may not be well-founded, as technology, at its best, is an enabler, and employment lawyers with expertise in technology will always be sought after. No doubt, technological disruption is the order of the day within modern organizations. At the same time, creating collaborations or partnerships with technology service providers in the creation of AI or machine learning applications targeted towards resolving employment and other kinds of disputes is clearly the way to go.

This is the spirit in which critical stakeholders, namely, experts in human resources, technology companies, legal practitioners and law firms which specialize in employment law are converging – online and otherwise – to examine current and emerging issues and trends in this critical practice area at the forthcoming Perchstone and Graeys LP’s Public Lecture titled “Resolving Disputes in an Environment Disrupted by Technology.”

The object of this gathering, namely, to honour Mr. Folabi Kuti, SAN, is also a testament to the virtue of long-range vision and knowledge of what it takes to actualize it, as well as a commitment towards the long game. It is an affirmation of the Aristotelian truism that excellence is not merely an act, but a habit, and that the truly successful life is akin to a marathon, rather than a sprint.

Perchstone and Graeys LP has over the years carved a niche for itself precisely due to this combination of qualities – an overarching vision, and the patience, self-discipline, unflinching focus, and the resilience of a marathon runner who runs the gamut of unfriendly terrain, a skeptical (and in many cases even outrightly hostile) audience, but always with an eye on the main prize. The firm has distinguished itself in its deft deployment of cutting edge technology in its mode of operations and overall business model. Indeed, we are – as Aristotle said – what we repeatedly do. The honoree at the Public Lecture, Mr. Folabi Kuti, SAN, is himself a human embodiment of these attributes.

The same attributes and attitude apply to the company’s engagement with, and its footprint within, the Nigerian legal ecosystem and the administration of justice system. In the view of those who ply their trade within the portals of Perchstone and Graeys LP, there can be no better metaphor for the changes that are needed in the Nigerian justice system, than the symbolic marathon. What we (critical stakeholders in the delivery of justice in this country) do in pursuit of the administration of justice, and why we do it, must be subject to constant, rigorous and painstaking review, as well as deep personal reflection and a profound sense of responsibility on the part of those tasked with driving these reforms.

Success in this or indeed any task of reform requires discipline, self-mastery and self-control from all those who bear the primary responsibility of effecting change, especially in an endeavour as crucial as the promotion of the rule of law and the good ordering of human society.


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