Bloomsbury Law Online

keyboard by Martins Strobinders

Co-operative Legal Services (CLS) looked set fair little more than five years ago to become a world leader in the commercial provision of access to justice for low income clients.

In 2011, its then newly appointed director, Christina Blacklaws, announced: “we … want to push the boundaries in delivering advice in other ways for people who would rather access legal services in different ways.”

Alas, early optimism has been tempered; Ms Blacklaws has long gone; and now “Recovery stutters at ABS [alternative business structure] standard bearer” reports The Law Society Gazette. The Co-op once offered a world-leading package of external funding, corporate ownership, unbundling and web-based services.

How did it all go wrong and should we temper expectations of the potential role of technology in low income practice more widely? The answer to this crucial question may well be dependent in England and Wales on the digitalisation of the courts.

I see the jobs/recruitment arena as a clash between the expertise of specialist legal recruitment consultants, some of whom have been in the legal market for decades, and the “every job in the world” approach of the automatically generated sites, which hoover up jobs from all the other jobs sites and recruitment companies. The recruitment consultants will get to know you personally, whilst with the automatically generated sites, the candidate narrows the field by specifying the type of job required, the qualifications possessed by the candidate, the location of the job, the salary required, and so on, and is then provided with a filtered list of options.

This clash of cultures has been made more complicated by the widespread use of social media, particularly LinkedIn and Twitter, to locate suitable jobs or (from the other side of the table) suitable candidates.

GDPR by Descrier

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into effect in 25 May 2018. It replaces the Data Protection Directive (implemented in the UK as the Data Protection Act 1998). This document addresses GDPR with the narrow focus of websites. For a broader discussion on the impact of GDPR on law firms, you might like to start with this article from the Law Society.

AI conversation

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a very broad term, covering everything from relatively simple document automation techniques right through to Stanley Kubrick’s HAL

For purposes of this article, we will consider AI to mean the current application of “intelligent” technologies to provide a solution to a problem, as opposed to a free thinking machine. In this sense, AI consists of concepts such as machine learning and natural language processing (NLP); generally computer programs which can either be trained to perform routine tasks or which interact with humans in a more natural way. AI tools may help to:

  • automate routine tasks;
  • manage and analyse vast quantities of data (Big Data);
  • spot discrepancies in data to aid compliance;
  • interpret natural language queries and sift through data to provide relevant answers (eg chatbots);
  • predict future outcomes based on patterns from past data.

Recent online developments from Thomson Reuters and LexisNexis.

I don’t meet many people working in the justice system who disagree that we need to change, but people do often question whether we will be able to do what we have said we will, and whether our reforms will be implemented well and will work properly. They point to criminal justice or wider Government IT problems of the past to illustrate these worries.

Barristers must soon complete their CPD for 2017 and be able to declare that they have done so. Are you in a position to do so?

Review the following précis of the Bar Standards Board (BSB) CPD requirements and make sure you have complied. If you feel that you have not yet complied, we can help you do so, simply and efficiently, with our CPD 2017 service.

Solicitors must soon attest, in respect of the practice year to 31 October 2017: “I have reflected on my practice and addressed any identified learning and development needs.” Are you in a position to do so?

Review the following précis of the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) continuing competence requirements and make sure you have complied. If you feel that you have not yet complied, we can help you do so, simply and efficiently, with our CPD 2017 service.

GDPR

“So, have I missed the boat to get ready for the GDPR?” “Will I get fined for not being fully up to speed?” “What is the worst thing that can happen if I am not complying by May 2018?” These are some of the most frequently asked questions currently accompanying the efforts (or lack of them) to prepare for the GDPR.

The GDPR is an ambitious, complex and strict law that will transform the way personal information is collected, shared and used globally. The organisational changes required to comply with this framework will be substantial and the potential consequences of not doing things properly can be severe. Therefore, it is not surprising that the climate around the GDPR and its compliance requirements is one of panic.

https

HTTPS stands for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure, the secure version of http, the protocol for communicating data between your browser and the websites that you are connected to. https ensures that all such communications are encrypted.

For several years now technical experts have highly recommended the use of https instead of http for exchange of information between web browser and web server. But while the change to https in the browser is painless, there are significant additional costs to implementing https on a server. Given these, why is https so strongly recommended?

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The ambitious courts modernisation programme known as HMCTS Reform continues to grapple with the process of creating a justice system that not only is suitable for the digital world of today but also won’t look out of place in fifty years’ time. How is it getting on?

Many solicitors provide free legal information on their websites. Is this good marketing or just giving away valuable information?

I maintain a section on my website called Free Legal Information for Individuals provided by Firms of Solicitors at www.venables.co.uk/individtopics.htm. This covers accidents, benefits, business, car crime, consumer, conveyancing, crime, divorce, death (probate, wills etc), debt, dental claims, discrimination, disability, education, employment … and so on, listed alphabetically.

When I recently carried out a major check of these entries, I found that many previous free legal resources have been removed or seriously reduced in scope. It seems that many firms of solicitors, having originally been keen to be part of the new and exciting World Wide Web have eventually decided that it was not really worth the effort.