May 2018

In an earlier contribution to the Newsletter I made the point that the partly hidden “A” as in Online Alternative Dispute Resolution, which tended to focus ODR’s perceived remit on out of court solutions such as mediation and arbitration, was beginning to disappear altogether as more focus was made on introducing ODR into the justice system itself. How is that progressing?

One of the questions we’ve most commonly been asked in recent months is “does the GDPR mean we have to get fresh consents from our entire marketing database?” In many (indeed, perhaps most) cases, the answer is “no” – though the explanation for this is not all that straightforward, and so the confusion here is easy to understand.

There are not as many IT and practice management services for barristers as for solicitors but there are some very strong players available.

Here are the key players in this market (based on my web page www.venables.co.uk/chambers-it.htm), followed by two short articles from key providers of services to chambers, Martin Poulter and Helen Ford, providing a view of the past, the present and the future.

Cryptocurrencies are a form of decentralised digital currency based on principles of cryptography. They use blockchain technology which is essentially a cryptographically secured method of recording data transactions which cannot be altered retroactively (see What is the blockchain?). Complicated mathematical equations need to be solved in order to generate each unit of the currencies, a process known as crypto-mining.

301 redirects are a way of ensuring online traffic gets sent to the most up-to-date version of a URL. For example, if you delete a page on a website and your customers try to access that page and it’s no longer there, they get an error message, which isn’t a great user experience, right? So, what you do is permanently redirect the old URL to the new, or most appropriate, URL. This is known as a 301 redirect.

In Algorithms and the Law, a paper by Jeremy Barnett, Adriano Soares Koshiyama and Philip Treleaven, the authors discuss the emergence of algorithms as artificial persons and the need to formally regulate them. It aims to start discussion in the legal profession regarding the legal impact of algorithms on companies, software developers, insurers and lawyers.

The new HMCTS divorce online service has moved out of Beta and is now online at www.gov.uk/apply-for-divorce. It offers prompts and guidance to assist people in completing their application. The whole process can be completed online, including payment and uploading supporting evidence.

The service has already contributed to a 95 per cent drop in the number of applications being returned because of mistakes.

The “fully updated” second print edition of The Law Society Guide to Good Practice includes 100 current Law Society practice notes, plus details of useful contacts and further resources, an index and tables of citations. It is 972 pp, weighs 1.5 kg, occupies 4.3 cm of shelf space and costs £60.

A constant stream of technological innovations has now become the norm, with each new technology promising to be a game-changer for business in the future. Artificial intelligence (AI) immediately comes to mind as the latest ‘silver bullet’. In fact, the widespread view is that AI is going to take the legal sector by storm – and many law firms are impatient to get on the ‘bandwagon’.

Whilst it’s important that law firms explore these new technologies – that may or may not deliver on their perceived potential in their current form – with vigour to evolve and innovate; it’s also vital that they exploit existing proven technologies and approaches that are optimised and available ‘today’. Often these existing technologies and methods are forgotten in the excitement of chasing the ‘next big thing’ – which in time meets the same fate as the existing technology – ie remains under-utilised and hence its potential is never fully exploited for business gain.