November 2018

The panic has receded. The frantic drafting has slowed down. The GDPR – widely regarded as the most ambitious data protection legal framework ever created – is in place and life goes on. As the dust left by the dramatic coming into effect of the GDPR settles, we are beginning to see what the GDPR means in practical terms. Many questions remain unanswered and many aspects of the law will take years – if not decades – to be fully interpreted and understood. However, among the numerous issues covered by the GDPR, some areas are emerging as the key strategic questions to address and becoming the focus of attention at an operational level.

Open access to case law in England and Wales is in a very poor state of health, both in terms of the amount of case law that is freely accessible to the public and in terms of the sustainability and development of the open case law apparatus in this jurisdiction.

It is true that the launch of BAILII in the early 2000s radically improved the public’s ability to access judgments and continues to provide a service of immense value. However, the simple fact is that nowhere near enough judgments from England and Wales’ superior courts are available on BAILII.

Efforts to increase public access to the decisions of judgments in this jurisdiction are being hampered by a range of systemic obstacles, including a general lack of awareness among judges, government, practitioners and commentators that a problem even exists, and a lack of understanding of how the judgment supply-chain in England and Wales works and why it is defective.

LinkedIn, acquired by Microsoft in 2016, has over 250 million active monthly users and, according to research from Attorney at Work, it is the most popular social media channel in the US legal sector, used by over 90 per cent of lawyers and forming part of the overall marketing strategy in around 70 per cent of firms. It is likely that these statistics broadly translate to the UK. LinkedIn’s popularity has increased within legal circles over recent years, with Brian Inkster, founder of Inksters citing its better rates of engagement: “I used to think LinkedIn was deadly boring compared to Twitter (which was my social media channel of choice). However, over the past year or two my views have changed. If I post a similar item on LinkedIn and Twitter it invariably gets more interaction and usually much more detailed comments on LinkedIn than on Twitter.”

The principal types of online law sources in the Republic of Ireland are as follows:

  • legislative material published by the State;
  • legal publishers’ materials pitched at the legal professions, subject to subscription;
  • general citizens’ rights and business information;
  • information and guides published by various statutory bodies on their activities;
  • a number of legal blogs on particular topics; and
  • articles on legal practitioners’ websites.

Legal blogs have been mainstream since the mid-2000s. Originally they seemed very modern, but now they seem rather ordinary. One has to ask “what are they for?” That is where the topic becomes interesting again.

Blogs are pretty normal now; but they are not necessarily called blogs and are used in a number of ways:

  • individual thoughts on current legal developments – the classic blog;
  • industry updates for clients – most large law firms have extensive blogs, suites of blogs or update sites, including Pinsent Masons (OUT-LAW), Simmons and Simmons (Elexica), Herbert Smith, Kingsley Napley, Field Fisher, Hogan Lovells, Clyde and Co …;
  • law updates for lawyers – many of the blogs described below are in this category, with leading examples being the ICLR Blog, Current Awareness from the Inner Temple Library, Free Movement Immigration Law Blog, Panopticon, UK Human Rights Blog and the UK Supreme Court Blog;
  • subscription information services – free and paid;
  • magazines which provide information in a more literary way than just nuggets of information but which are still purveyors of legal information topics (for example this Newsletter);
  • news sources – this was a new idea in the early 2000s but this has largely been overtaken by Twitter where the news can be found literally as it happens.

Blogging is a simple, cheap, efficient, effective way to publish and update time-sensitive information, particularly in constantly-changing fields such as the law. Blogging puts in your hands publishing power even greater than that which was the preserve of only large, established publishers with fat wallets not so long ago. Content management, feed generation, subscriber management, search engine optimisation: all is built in for free. That’s reason enough for almost everyone and every organisation to consider blogging.

Blogs are not just a publishing format, but a networking tool, a means to reach out and engage with an audience; and blogging is not just about publishing, but about conversing and contributing. That’s how blogs started out – with the desire to share thoughts and “write out loud”.

The Internet, Warts and AllThe Internet, Warts and All: Free Speech, Privacy and Truth by Paul Bernal is not a law book; it is a book about seeking to understand an environment – the internet – in which the law operates. It is a book about law, but “It is also … about technology, about politics, about psychology, about society, about philosophy.” Regulating the internet impacts all these.

Whilst the internet started off as a communications medium and an information resource and, for business, a marketing opportunity, it now underpins almost every aspect of our lives and is integral to the way our society operates. We need to face up to and accept the fact that the internet really is a mess. The way through this mess requires balances and compromises which change as the technologies develop.

This article first appeared in Legal Web Watch November 2018. Legal Web Watch is a free email service which complements the Internet Newsletter for Lawyers. To receive Legal Web Watch regularly sign up here.

HM Courts and Tribunals Service held a public event on 6 November, inviting those who represent public court users to see first-hand the progress made over the last year with the court reform program.

This article first appeared in Legal Web Watch November 2018. Legal Web Watch is a free email service which complements the Internet Newsletter for Lawyers. To receive Legal Web Watch regularly sign up here.

The following items have been selected from Delia Venables’ “New” page.