Remote hearings are here to stay, thanks to Covid-19. That might have happened anyway, sooner or later, but the pandemic has made it both sooner and more certain.

On 3 March 2020 the government’s coronavirus Action Plan declared that “The Ministry of Justice’s HM Courts & Tribunal Service have well-established plans to deliver key services to protect the public and maintain confidence in the justice system.” By 23 March the Coronavirus Act 2020 was on the statute book, enabling rules and directions to be made permitting public and media access to remote hearings broadcast via the internet.

Alex Heshmaty asks Belinda Lester, founder of Lionshead Law, and Annie Joseph, a trainee solicitor at a top 100 UK law firm, to consider some of the key opportunities and challenges that remote working poses for lawyers.

In April 2020, the Financial Times published an article inviting organisations and individuals from the legal sector to join a global hackathon to develop solutions to problems created by the coronavirus pandemic.

While some of us in the legal sphere will read this announcement with admiration and excitement, others will be wondering, “what is a hackathon?” Even those who are familiar with the term may question how hackathons can make a difference. These are the questions we’re here to address.

In recent months, the internet has been your shop window more than ever before. As we continue to move forward with the easing of personal and professional restrictions, we thought that now would be a good time to update our digital marketing “Top Tips”. Our update is based on our experience of having worked closely with our law firm customers during this trying period and takes into consideration some of the trials and tribulations (and opportunities) that this new normal presents.

In the last issue of the Newsletter, I made a case for individual lawyers cutting back on use of social media. Let’s now consider some alternative marketing techniques to which firms’ social media budgets can be diverted, which may deliver more bang for the buck.

Nick Holmes highlights a number of new resources and publications of interest to lawyers on the web – from Schrems II to accessibility

We previously reported on a controversial digital services tax (also known as the GAFA tax) which was implemented in France towards the end of 2019, which levies a 3 per cent tax on digital services gross revenue (as opposed to profits) made in France by companies with total worldwide revenues of more than €750 million – of which at least €25 million is generated in France. The aim is to close the tax loopholes which effectively allow large technology firms to avoid paying tax by basing their regional headquarters in tax havens.

It was recently announced that the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is to host the Secretariat of the new Global Partnership on AI (GPAI).

The GPAI consists of a collection of countries (Australia, Canada, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Korea, Singapore, Slovenia, UK and USA) along with the European Union. It aims to “guide the responsible development and use of AI, grounded in human rights, inclusion, diversity, innovation, and economic growth.” The GPAI brings together experts from industry, civil society, governments, and academia, to work across four broad themes:

Technology based training is nothing new but the tools and techniques we now use are considerably evolved compared to decades ago. Since its early days in the 1970s technology based training has provided a flexible and cost-effective way of meeting people’s re-skilling objectives. Under recent conditions, with most of the population working from home due to Covid-19, it has become an essential component in business continuity. Early on, technology based training was largely undertaken by computer to enable learning to take place by CD with the computer standing in for a teacher. As computers have evolved to link with video and communication technology, such as smart phones and tablets, learning opportunities have expanded. As a result today it’s also possible to train via new channels such as social media at any time and on the move. Given this shift into a more expansive digital realm, we now talk today of “e-learning”.

Alex Heshmaty asks Joanne Frears, partner at Lionshead Law, and Will Richmond-Coggan, partner at Freeths, about the implications of various emergency measures being taken by the government in the fight against Covid-19 – many of which are enabled by technology.

On 23 March 2020, the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced a strict lockdown due to Covid-19 that immediately affected many businesses throughout the UK, including law firms.

His announcement was that you should only leave home to go to work “where this is absolutely necessary and cannot be done from home”.

Most lawyers took the message to mean that they should shut their offices and work from home.

Of course, we could all see it coming and many law firms, like my own, had already been transitioning to work from home during the course of the previous week.

At Inksters we perhaps did not have to adapt as much as some law firms did.

The UK Government launched the NHS Test and Trace service on 28 May 2020 in England and Scotland, with Wales following on 1 June; Northern Ireland already has its own system. However, there is one glaring omission: the smartphone app.