Bloomsbury Law Online

Content conundrum

The contest at the heart of the Investigatory Powers Act

After more scrutiny than probably any other piece of legislation in recent memory, the Investigatory Powers Bill received Royal Assent in November. Notwithstanding the amount of Parliamentary time spent on the 300 pages of powers and safeguards, underpinning the Act are some complex and abstractly defined (in some cases undefined) concepts. Nowhere is this more true than in the distinction the legislation tries to draw between between content and metadata.

The distinction matters because the Act applies fewer safeguards and constraints to selection and examination of metadata than to content.

The government’s position, which finds support in human rights law, is that intercepting, acquiring, processing and examining the content of a communication is more intrusive than for the “who, when, where, how” contextual data wrapped around it.

digital marketing

A good website with lots of useful information is no longer enough; the site has to be “marketed”.

Over the last 10 or 15 years, a large number of digital marketing companies have sprung up, typically offering to design and implement an impressive website and provide it with the key factors which will encourage the viewer to make contact and, hopefully, to become a client. These companies offer some of the following:

privat

After all of the 2016 drama, the start of a brand new year is a welcome development in itself – a clean sheet for a script yet to be written. However, 2017 will not be without challenges and the same applies to the world of privacy and data protection. Many of the big issues that arose during 2016 will need to be addressed in 2017. New questions will no doubt emerge.

virtual reality girl

The basic idea of virtual reality (VR) is to create a computer generated environment which someone can experience and explore, through the use of a headset (incorporating vision and sound) and sometimes other input devices (eg haptic gloves) which allow them to manipulate their virtual surroundings. The concept of a computer simulated reality is nothing new and experiments with VR systems were already being carried out in the late 60s (eg The Sword of Damocles). Advances in technology during the late 80s and early 90s led to an increasing cultural awareness of VR through films such as Lawnmower Man – and the rise of computer games prompted more companies to attempt to create a device which could be used in the same way as a home console. But progress was slow, with a trailblazing attempt by Sega in 1993 terminated, officially due to fears that users could injure themselves by moving around due to the “reality” of the headset (although perhaps more to do with limited processing power and reports of testers developing headaches and motion sickness). However, although it struggled to take off as a consumer device, VR systems have been used for many years for training in certain professions: teaching pilots to fly, police officers to shoot and surgeons to operate.

“Every decision is binding no matter whether it is reported in the regular series of Law Reports, or is unreported. Once you have the transcript, you can cite it as of equal authority to a reported decision. It behoves every counsel or solicitor to find, if he can, a case – reported or unreported – which will help him advise or win his case.” – Lord Denning

In the days of printed law reports, there was a very real upper limit to how many cases could be reported – you can only fit so many in a book.

With digital content, no such physical problem exists, but other constraints remain. The process of producing high-quality reports of lengthy judgments is time-consuming and expensive. Consequently, fewer than 20 per cent of UK higher court cases end up in law reports – either leading or specialist series (based on the number of reported and unreported cases in the Justis database of UK superior court judgments).

It’s worth noting this limit is simply indicative of resources, rather than legal significance. It is a statement that only 20 per cent of cases can be reported, and says nothing about how many should be.

cpd_emailad

Thanks to those who have already completed our new Internet for Lawyers CPD 2016 courses and a reminder to those who have not that you can earn all the CPD you need with us online now.

quentin-huntA surprisingly large number of lawyers are unaware of the right to bring a private prosecution and the potential benefits that such a course of action can bring. A private prosecution is a ‘criminal law’ action and is prosecuted in the criminal courts but if utilised effectively, it can be a very useful tactic either as an alternative or in combination with Civil Litigation. The following are areas where private prosecutions have been used to great effect:

touch2

A view from across the pond.

Remember all those ludicrous predictions you kept hearing about how law firms were some day going to invest heavily in intelligent technology that could do legal work? Funny thing about that: some day is today.

Here’s what’s actually happening, right now, with advanced technology in law firms:

analytics

“War is 90 per cent information” – Napoleon Bonaparte

With the legal sector continuing to go through a period of unprecedented change, law firms are increasingly looking for ways to gain a competitive advantage over their rivals.

Law firm decision makers throughout the country will be busy developing and implementing business plans, setting objectives, goals and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), ie important metrics. However, when applied in an online environment, it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture and get distracted by the sheer volume of metrics delivered by analytics tools which can easily confuse rather than inform.

The following tips are designed to help you see the wood through the trees and highlight some of the most important tools and techniques to help your law firm succeed online.

liminality

I’ve always liked the word “liminality” – a threshold that marks the boundary between two phases. If nothing else, Brexit presents an opportunity for its appropriate use. The UK’s current state, where we are still in the EU but apparently heading somewhere else, does feel liminal, with its quality (to quote Wikipedia) of ambiguity or disorientation.

You can sense this in the way the Commission’s significant proposals for copyright reform have been greeted in the UK. The Proposal for a Digital Copyright Directive (more on which below) and Regulation on rights clearance for online TV programming, if adopted, will represent significant modifications to European copyright law. But the response in the UK seems muted, reflecting an uncertainty about their applicability to a post Brexit UK, a sense in which they seem both relevant and irrelevant to the UK.

a-to-z

In the last issue of this Newsletter, I wrote an article on the main suppliers of cloud based software for lawyers. I described the suppliers who have developed software for the cloud, from the ground up (no pun intended), with no option for in-house use; there were about 30 suppliers, and their offerings, described in that article.

This covered many of the newer suppliers who have seen an opportunity for developing easy-to-use legal software in the cloud, particularly for smaller users, as well as some of the older, and well established suppliers who have developed a completely new software system for cloud use.

email-newsletters

A good way of keeping up to date with recent developments in law – and to collect quite a bit of free content – is to sign up for email alerts. But take care to choose wisely, lest your inbox be flooded with updates you don’t have time to read. It’s best to choose a few that deal with key areas of interest, and make sure you at least skim through them when they arrive, or transfer them to an “updates” folder in your email app so you can review them when you have time.

You can sign up to email alerts from official sources like government departments or NGOs, or from legal publishers anxious to share summary content in the hope you will subscribe to their full services. Nothing wrong with that; and the free content from solicitors’ firms or barristers’ chambers has a commercial justification too: they want to showcase their expertise in their areas of specialism. In addition, a number of legal blogs provide case comments and current awareness content.