JustisOne

justice online

Courts in England and Wales have been struggling with information technology for so long now, that expectations of any improvement remain stagnantly low. Nevertheless, the current project to create an Online Court with its own procedure and staff goes beyond anything hitherto attempted. Can it overcome a long history of failed IT projects and deliver something that not only matches its own ambition but overturns our low expectations?

And if it does, what will happen to the principle of open justice and accountability, not to mention law reporting, when court hearings are conducted in a virtual realm without the press bench and public gallery of a traditional physical courtroom?

NEC cloud solutions

The testing of online courts should not simply be about whether the technology works, said Andrew Langdon QC, chairman of the Bar, at an event on 16 February hosted by the UCL Judicial Institute, “The Case for Online Courts”.

He sensibly pointed out the “human process” of law, and the potential impacts of the transition to digital over face-to-face technologies.

Langdon was one of a number of experts responding to Professor Richard Susskind’s lecture on his vision for online courts, and online civil dispute resolution in particular.

Signpost in blue sky with fluffy white clouds

The legal directory industry shows no sign of decline. With the advent of the internet it would have been reasonable to expect the directories business to fade away as more people took to search engines to find their preferred counsel. However, the directories have embraced the internet by providing online versions with relevant information and as a result they are doing better than ever.

As you might imagine there are a number of directories to choose from. However, it’s worth noting that they are run in very different ways. For example, both Chambers and Partners and Legal 500 spend a great deal of time and resources researching the legal market, both in the UK and overseas. Their results are both unbiased and unambiguous, ranking the top-rated counsel (as found by their research) in each practice area in each jurisdiction. Martindale-Hubbell and Who’s Who Legal appear to be more listings services rather than publications that have been methodically researched and ranked (I’ve received emails from Who’s Who inviting me to buy a profile in their directory and suggested that I would fit into the litigation category …. Scary thought for a marketing agency!). Practical Law Company’s directory ceased to be operational in 2013. It is worth mentioning that all of the directories have a cost associated with them. However, both Legal 500 and Chambers and Partners will still include the firm/chambers and lawyers in the directory rankings even if they choose not to purchase a profile. It’s not clear from the Who’s Who website how they deal with this.

wolf

I first wrote on this subject for the Newsletter in early 2013. My views have changed quite a lot in the four years since then.

I believe we’ve seen that big is not always better, that well run, customer-focused, local law firms can survive and that trying to roll up 200 separate law firms under a new, national pink and black logo and name does not mean instant success for any of the firms involved.

So, who (or what) should law firms be afraid of, in 2017?

Central Family Court

Within the legal sector there is now an increasing clamour about the use of technology to leverage greater innovation. Everyone wants to be seen as cutting-edge, tech savvy and as “true pioneers of innovation”. It’s almost a race by some to differentiate themselves from the competition through technology. However, if all the top law firms are making this same kind of noise, then naturally enough they all sound the same.

It’s easy to see why the startling developments being made in machine learning, artificial intelligence and sentiment analysis grab the headlines. You cannot go a day (or even a couple of hours) without someone extolling the virtues of some new ‘game changer’ within the legal profession.

And the courtroom is no exception.

Code by Michael Himbeault

Predictive coding is a form of technology assisted review (TAR) used to assess the relevance of high volumes of documents for purposes of electronic disclosure (e-disclosure). E-disclosure refers to the disclosure of all electronically stored information (ESI) – as opposed to any hard copy documents – as part of the litigation process.

Market cc by Christopher Matson

About 10 years ago there was a strong feeling in the legal profession that selling legal services and documents online was going to be one of the big features of the future. I set up a section on my website for this topic at www.venables.co.uk/selling.htm with subdivisions for firms of solicitors doing this, companies doing this, and various other aspects of online activity including referral and marketing panels, and price and service comparison sites.

However, far from growing steadily, this first section in particular has struggled to add new firms and indeed, many of the firms originally doing this have now stopped doing so. There are now fewer than 20 firms that appear to be doing this and, in many of these cases, the services offered are very limited in scope and are certainly not the main means by which they are delivering their legal services.

Why has this aspect of legal services failed to grow?

This article first appeared in Legal Web Watch February 2017. Legal Web Watch is a free email service which complements the Internet Newsletter for Lawyers. To receive Legal Web Watch regularly sign up here.

I am a long-time proponent of RSS but am aware that it is declining in visibility. Many sites large and small are not offering RSS feeds any more. What’s up?

This article first appeared in Legal Web Watch February 2017. Legal Web Watch is a free email service which complements the Internet Newsletter for Lawyers. To receive Legal Web Watch regularly sign up here.

trade mark

In the previous issue of the Newsletter, Jordan Furlong highlighted how artificial intelligence and expert systems are being deployed in law firms, and will transform the legal industry. One implication of this is that law firms will be “marketing themselves as enterprises whose value and identities are independent of their lawyers”.

If you’re minded to follow Jordan’s advice and focus your marketing efforts on building your law firm brand rather than the brand of individual star lawyers within the firm, then you’ve probably got ambitions for your law business. It makes sense, therefore, to find out about protecting your intellectual property.

Every law firm or barrister’s chamber will have intellectual property to protect, although the actions to take will be different depending on the business, the intellectual property involved, and the aspirations for the business.

legislation.gov.ukBloomsbury Law OnlineICL Ronline

News from Legislation.gov.uk, Bloomsbury Law and ICLR.

More than three years ago I wrote an article for this Newsletter extolling (in the main) the benefits of using a virtual approach to working in the digital age by virtualising legal services. The last three years have seen a further embedding of virtual law firms in the legal marketplace, with Keystone Law becoming a (more) established name, Setfords Solicitors receiving a substantial private equity injection and Excello Law apparently moving from strength to strength; my own firm, Redmans, although much smaller, has substantially increased revenue and profits.

redmansThis article looks at how my firm’s practices have changed over the last three years and gives an update on the benefits (and disadvantages) of the virtual model. It also looks at how the model of a virtual firm may have changed over this period.