Bloomsbury Law Online

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The Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (IALS) has as its central remit the promotion and facilitation of research and scholarship at an advanced level across the whole field of law. Though based in central London and attached to the University of London, IALS draws its primary membership from academic researchers and postgraduate research students from other institutions throughout the UK, and provides services to researchers in the wider legal community.

IALS has been involved in innovative online legal information delivery for many years, developing and promoting public access to materials on the web through the creation of a wide range of e-resources, digitisation and collaborative ventures. The arm of the Institute actively involved in this field has recently been renamed IALS Digital. Through the ongoing work of IALS Digital, the Institute is committed to extending the reach of digital provision of legal information by delivering specialist legal research tools and niche web services – maximising access to key or hard-to-find information to facilitate legal research, public understanding, and the promotion of justice and the rule of law.

Some of IALS Digital’s recent initiatives are highlighted below, along with several of its more well-established research tools. All of the resources are freely available at ials.sas.ac.uk/digital.

Hacker Firewall by Christoph Scholz

Encryption is a way of making data secure, so that it can only be accessed by authorised parties. Cryptographic techniques are used to render information unintelligible to any third parties whilst it is being stored on an electronic device such as a laptop or smartphone, or during its transit from sender to recipient over the internet or other types of computer network.

There are many techniques of encryption but the main principles are as follows:

  • Unencrypted data is referred to as “plaintext”.
  • Plaintext is encrypted using an algorithm known as a “cipher”.
  • The algorithm also generates a pseudo-random encryption “key”.
  • Once plaintext has been encrypted it is known as “ciphertext”.
  • The ciphertext is unreadable and can only be deciphered (ie converted back to plaintext) with the symmetric (private) or asymmetric (public) key which was previously generated by the algorithm.
  • End to end encryption means that data which passes through a company’s servers (eg WhatsApp) can only be read by the sender and recipient and cannot be accessed or interfered with by the company handling the data.

Several online publishers describe recent developments in their services for lawyers. News from ICLR, Justis, Bloomsbury Law and 1COR.

Very soon you are going to have to account for how you have assessed and met your learning and development needs to remain competent to practice in 2017. How’s it going?

Sigmoid curve

Richard Hugo-Hamman, executive chairman of LEAP, discusses change and how to use technology to keep ahead of the curve.

Your law firm is a business, growth and profitability is paramount. You want to see your client base grow and your profits increase. More importantly, you don’t want to go backwards just because you are so busy working in the business that you don’t notice what is happening. You may have other goals – opening another office or being recognised as experts in a niche field. Whatever your measure of success, you want it to endure.

Creating consistent, long-term growth can prove elusive. The best way to generate long-term growth is through the regular introduction of change to create new ways of doing things. For many businesses, including law firms, the clearest path to continued success is through the regular implementation of new technology in an ongoing cycle.

This needs a culture of innovation so that your whole firm is accustomed to continuous improvement.

Electronic evidence cover image

By Stephen Mason and George Weir

To ask the right questions of digital evidence professionals when instructing them, it is incumbent on the lawyer to be aware of what questions to ask. Here we describe the various mechanisms by which evidence in electronic form is adduced into legal proceedings via the worldwide web and internet.

robot1robot2

Recently I encountered a tweet about a “robot lawyer” called LISA and took the bait: “Can someone please explain to me how this differs from document assembly we’ve had for decades? Intelligent? Robot? Lawyer?”

Robot Lawyer LISA is a document assembly tool with a single form (an NDA). For what it is – consumer-facing document assembly – the concept and content are fine relative to what else is available. The claims to be something more – an AI robot lawyer – are absurd. The hyperbole, however, is effective.

Billy Bot Infographic

Billy Bot is the world’s first robotic junior clerk for a barristers’ chambers.

The concept of Billy Bot came out of the huge growth in public access work that now comes directly to barristers. Members of the public can now contact chambers directly to discuss their potential cases with the clerks in chambers. This presents a new difficulty for barristers’ clerks as they need to spend much more time dealing with enquiries from the general public than they do with solicitors or other lawyers (who have a professional understanding of the legal process and requirements) when they contact us to obtain advice or book a barrister for a hearing.

dyno rod

The competitive nature of pay per click advertising opens one potentially lucrative avenue to advertisers: bidding on your competitors’ keywords. Is it worth doing? Let’s explore the options.

You will commonly see advertisers bidding on competitor’s keywords. In the example above, we can see four advertisements for a search for the well-known drains clearing company Dyno Rod. The first ad is Dyno Rod itself, using advertising to protect its brand position.

The adverts in positions 2, 3, and 4 are competitors, leveraging Dyno Rod’s dominant market position to raise their own brand awareness, and potentially encourage searchers to click on their own website instead of going to the Dyno Rod website.

What a silly question, you may be thinking; everyone has to have a website these days. Well yes, everyone has to have to have the basic details of the organisation online, with contact details and something which looks nice. But beyond that?

For many years, I have had a section about the Bar on my own website, at www.venables.co.uk/bar.htm where I provide basic details of several hundred chambers who have told me about their website and given me some information about their organisation. I looked through these recently, to remove the ones no longer in existence, and asked the others to provide updates to their descriptions which many (not all) have done. At the same time, I looked at the websites and tried to work out what they are trying to do with their site.

Hologram 08 by Ian Truelove

The development of the internet has gradually shifted many aspects of modern life from the real, tangible world to a virtual, digital domain: music, films and books are stored in the cloud, social lives are conducted online and bank accounts are managed with apps. As we move towards an increasingly online existence, this raises the question of what happens to all our digital assets and personal data once we die and how these “digital legacies” can be bequeathed.

DoNotPay

In this issue Casey Flaherty forcefully makes the case against the hype surrounding AI and robots in legal, particularly by vendors talking up their own offerings. He is also somewhat sensitive to those who call their offerings “lawyers” when they clearly are not. One such, indeed the one who has claimed “the world’s first robot lawyer” is all-of-20 Joshua Browder, a British student at Stanford University, majoring in Economics and Computer Science. Most of the legal tech press has covered the basics of Joshua’s DoNotPay robot lawyer which started off challenging parking tickets for Joshua and his friends and has now developed into a veritable bot-fest, with over 500 law bots planned in 300 areas of law across US, Canadian and UK jurisdictions.