Airbnb has been a phenomenal success since it was launched just over a decade ago, arguably creating more choice for travellers seeking accommodation while providing a user friendly platform which allows homeowners to rent out a spare room easily. However, it has also faced mounting criticism from various quarters: city officials claim that investors snap up rental properties to add to their Airbnb portfolio, making it more difficult for local residents to find homes to rent; neighbours often complain that Airbnb properties are continuously let out to noisy tourists in residential areas; and hoteliers and regulators argue that Airbnb simply offers a way for unscrupulous businesses to act as hotels whilst avoiding the overheads or regulation.

Internet regulation has been very much in the public eye lately, particularly following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and the government recently published its Online Harms White Paper which seeks to address some of the concerns surrounding the ‘Wild West Web’. One of the key issues regularly raised is the protection of children from exposure to online pornography.

In the film Minority Report, Tom Cruise, as the head of a “pre-crime” unit, apprehends criminals based on foreknowledge provided by psychics. This results in low crime levels, but also in a world where knowing the future limits choice and access to justice.

The reality of case prediction practice is very different from this dystopian vision.

At the end of March 2019 Justis was acquired by vLex, a legal technology company founded in Barcelona with offices across the world. While we are at the beginning stages of planning what this means for both JustisOne and the vLex platform, we are able to speculate as to how Justis, a vLex company, might look.

Since the launch of JustisOne in 2017, we have been continuing to enhance the range of features available to our users. Most recently, we have been updating our Browse feature and adding Alerting to enable our users to stay up-to-date with the latest developments in areas of law that are relevant to them. Alongside this, we have increased the range of content on the platform, with the launch of the Human Rights collection.

These developments are covered in detail below.

Litigation is expensive; all lawyers know it. Clients who have been through any significant litigation understand that precious few alternatives exist for resolving a dispute where the parties cannot reach a negotiated settlement.

Where there is an absence of goodwill and a shortage of funding, potentially successful claims can be difficult to pursue, particularly since legislation prevents the recovery of success fees and “after the event” legal expenses insurance premiums from defendants, even where claims are successful.

One avenue which is increasingly gaining in popularity and traction is that of crowdfunding for litigation, and there are clear signs that this is moving from the province of public interest claims into broader commercial and individual disputes.

Suppose that, tomorrow, you needed to create a business that provides legal services – but law firms had never been invented, and you didn’t have that reference point to use as a template. Being a sensible and forward-thinking person, you might come up with an entity that featured many of the following characteristics:

  • A privately owned corporation, perhaps with significant initial venture capital and the possibility of an IPO down the line, to assure yourself of operating and investment funds.
  • A focus on markets where incumbent providers (lawyers) are scarce and where potential customers are therefore underserved and plentiful (say, consumers and small businesses).
  • A range of affordable legal document assembly tools, accessible online 24/7, that can deliver extremely high-margin solutions to the basic legal needs of your customers.
  • A network of reliable local lawyers to whom your customers’ more complex legal matters can be referred, and for whom your brand and market reach constitute a powerful marketing force.

In other words, you might wind up creating something like LegalZoom.

In its Report to the Civil Justice Council in February 2015, Online Dispute Resolution for Low Value Civil Claims, the ODR Advisory Group, chaired by Prof Richard Susskind recommended the establishment by HMCTS of an online court for low value civil claims, called HM Online Court (HMOC). This would overcome the fact that current practice and procedures were “too costly, too slow, and too complex, especially for litigants in person.”

This court service would be in three “tiers”. The first, “online evaluation”, would help users identify their problem, be aware of their rights and obligations and understand the options available to them.

Next, “online facilitation” would involve online mediation and negotiation, supported, where necessary, by telephone conferencing. Some “automated negotiation” might be involved.

If not resolved by mediation, “online judges” would decide suitable cases or parts of cases largely on the basis of papers submitted to them electronically, again supported, where necessary, by telephone conferencing.

Although its terms of reference were restricted to civil claims under the value of £25,000, it suggested that the jurisdiction of HMOC “should also be extended to suitable family disputes and to appropriate cases that come before today’s tribunals.”

Content marketing is crucial for any business, regardless of the industry you operate in. However, marketers can often fail to appreciate its value, especially if they’ve created content that’s failed in the past (and trust me, there are many content marketing mistakes you can make).

Perhaps what marketers don’t realise, however, is that when great content has been produced, it can help with SEO, digital PR and social media. Essentially, content marketing ties several aspects of digital marketing together; so for your brand to be truly successful, you need content marketing.

The debate around workplace monitoring of employees has rumbled on for many years now; employers argue that they are entitled to analyse how their staff spend their working day whilst employees claim it impacts upon their privacy. In 2017 the European Court of Human Rights held, in the case of Bărbulescu v Romania, that the actions of an employer in monitoring the instant messaging accounts of an employee breached Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. But this hasn’t dissuaded some businesses from moving to ever more extreme forms of surveillance; microchipping has already happened in the UK and Amazon has filed patent applications on a warehouse productivity bracelet.

The Government published its Online Harms White Paper on 8 April 2019. The consultation, which is open until 1 July 2019, sets out proposals to reduce illegal and harmful online activity. The harms in scope include:

  • harassment and cyberbullying;
  • hate crime and incitement of violence;
  • terrorism, extremist and violent content;
  • revenge/extreme porn, child sexual exploitation and “sexting” by under-18s;
  • organised immigration crime and modern slavery;
  • encouraging or assisting suicide, self-harm and FGM;
  • coercive behaviour and intimidation;
  • sale of illegal goods (weapons, illegal drugs etc) and illegal uploading of content from prisons;
  • disinformation (fake news); and
  • underage exposure to pornography (this is separately being tackled by the heavily delayed age check scheme, now due to come into force on 15 July 2019).

Copyright law is being challenged by disruptive technologies such as AI and blockchain, themes addressed in the recently published 5th edition of the author’s book Digital Copyright, on which this article is based.

For many mediators, “online dispute resolution” is simply using online technology such as Skype or Zoom as the medium for real time discussion or exchanging emails for asynchronous discussion. Whilst these are helpful in bridging the geographical gap, the more exciting developments are around the development of artificial intelligence to actively assist the parties to reach an agreed resolution that might otherwise not be achieved or be achieved only after a lengthy and costly negotiation “dance”.