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.

Craig TaylorIf you ask an insurer what the three biggest risks are when providing cover to a law firm they will likely respond with ‘conveyancing, conveyancing and conveyancing’. An ever-increasing market pressure on price and a push towards high-volume, low-margin workloads in an extremely competitive market are doing nothing to reduce a law firm’s exposure to risk. Professional Indemnity Insurance (PII) is probably a firm’s biggest cost after salaries, and reports indicate that sole practitioners are paying around 7 per cent of turnover.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) suggests that property represents a disproportionate level of negligence and that residential conveyancing accounts for 26 per cent of indemnity payouts, with one of the root causes being lack of adequate risk management.

The big question is what steps can you take to mitigate risk as a modern forward-thinking firm whilst increasing efficiencies and remaining competitive? Here is some advice for a law firm on how to reduce risk:

customer by charles roderick

CRM is high on the agenda again, prompted by increasing recognition of the value of informed relationships to help deliver more of what clients’ value. Making that happen requires accurate, up-to-date information about clients and other contacts to work with, that people can rely on with confidence.

Accuracy of personal data is probably top of that agenda for most right now though. GDPR has added the incentive now to explore better ways to manage personal data and to ensure its security more proactively and effectively. As ever, the GDPR’s mandatory compliance requirements from government is prompting action where there has been complacent inaction in the past – so take advantage of that.

As a result, there have recently been more useful, constructive and progressive discussions going on more widely within law firms about “data” than ever before, backed up with new plans to radically improve the quality of data they hold. This has become a catalyst to prompt new initiatives, supported by new technologies and strategies, many of which were already available before but just were not explored.

Better backlinks by Joe the Goat Farmer

With Douglas Millar

“Growing the link profile of a website is critical to gaining traction, attention, and traffic from the [search] engines. As an SEO, link building is among the top tasks required for search ranking and traffic success.” Moz

The importance of link building

Approaching its 20th birthday later this year, Google is still the dominant search engine in the UK. As such, it continues to hold significant sway as to which law firms gain more clients than others through the internet. For those firms looking to take their online marketing to the next level, focusing on link building strategy should be a priority.