Eclipse

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As reported in Legal Futures, the much delayed Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates (QASA) – originally scheduled for implementation in December 2011 – is still showing no sign of movement.

QASA has been described as “the only way” to protect all members of the public involved in criminal proceedings “at an upper level” but has been plagued with interruptions and delays. The latest delay sees the profession awaiting the government decision on whether it will set up an overlapping panel of defence advocates which the government believes will “provide valuable quality assurance and enable the government to have greater confidence in the quality of publicly funded defence advocacy”.

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The era of traditional CPD “points” requirements for both solicitors and barristers is drawing to a close, with new continuing practice development regimes being introduced for the next practice year. Whilst there has been plenty of notice of this (for solicitors, not so much for barristers), it’s understandable that many practitioners, particularly those operating without centralised training support, are uncertain what lies ahead and how this differs from what they have known.

The purpose of this article is to clarify the position as it pertains now (in the 2016 practice year) and to summarise the new requirements that will be operative in the next.

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This article considers two recent developments relating to data protection and trade secrets: two sides of the same coin perhaps.

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Does your law firm find call handling a challenge? Do you sometimes find yourself losing out on leads because your fee earners do not have enough time to follow up on enquiries? Many solicitors struggle to find the time to respond effectively to new enquiries while still managing their workloads, especially when many of these enquiries involve people looking for free advice or asking the same questions day in and day out.

In addition, clients and prospective clients expect to be able to contact their solicitor through a variety of methods ranging from phone and email, but also via social media, live chat on websites and even SMS. So not only do law firms need constantly to work to ensure that their call handling and sales processes run smoothly, they also need to field queries on an ever-growing range of platforms from both current clients and potential new business in order to capture all opportunities.

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Although written for barristers, the recommendations below would broadly apply to any lawyer practising without the support of an IT team.

As a practising barrister, your working life is probably busy, hectic and mentally exhausting, and the thought of having to consider the security of your IT equipment is more than likely not one that bears too heavily on you. “My PC, laptop, smart phone, tablet, and networks etc all come with ‘built in’ security so that’s enough” I hear you say. Well, sorry to burst your bubble, but it’s not enough unless you can afford to pay out thousands of pounds in financial penalties to the Information Commissioner or by way of compensation in the event of there being any significant loss or compromise to your client personal information.

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There are a large number of companies offering legal software to lawyers – around 100 at my last count. The software section of my website www.venables.co.uk/software.htm lists and describes them all, A to Z.

As well as the A to Z sections, I now provide a section called “Cloud, Outsourcing and Hosted Systems” at www.venables.co.uk/outsourcing.htm. More and more new suppliers are developing their software specifically for online use and this is now quite a large section, with 30 suppliers.

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Towards the end of 2015, the EU institutions reached agreement on a new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which will replace the 1995 Data Protection Directive, seeking to implement a stricter and more harmonised data privacy regime. The new GDPR, which was published in the Official Journal of the European Union on 4 May 2016 and is expected to come into force on 25 May 2018, is considered to be one of the most comprehensive overhauls of EU privacy legislation.

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Blended Learning

It is time for legal practices to introduce more effective and comprehensive training, not just for lawyers, but for management and support staff too. In this article I explore why and how you might introduce a structured blend of training across your practice that includes more affordable and manageable e-learning alongside traditional face-to-face training.

Google AdWords

In February of this year Google made a substantial change to the way it inserts some advertisements into the search results when searching from a desktop computer.

The advertisements on the right hand side of the screen, known as the “rail”, have all been removed. And Google now serves up to four text ads above the organic search engine results (SERPs) and a further three ads at the bottom.

i read your email

As the line between work and personal life blurs the media has repeatedly made reference to a right to snoop, with headlines such as “Bosses can snoop on workers’ private emails and messages” (The Telegraph), “Britain has a new human right … freedom to spy on employees’ emails” (The Daily Mail) and “Private messages at work can be read by European employers” (BBC News website). These three attention grabbers followed the decision of the ECHR in Bărbulescu v Romania (Application No 61496/08), 12 January 2016. Perhaps predictably, a proper reading of the case reveals that matters are not quite so clear-cut.

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The country may still be unclear as to its future relationship with the EU and the Single Market, but such has been the scale of non-compliance by businesses of all shapes and sizes with the new ADR regulations, as well as the total non-enforcement by the authorities, that it seems many think we are already out.