Legal Web Watch September 2014

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Follow Nick Holmes on Twitter @nickholmes.

Big Internet? No thanks

The early adopters have been getting restless lately. I’m with them. This is not what we signed up for.

Alan Jacobs, writing for The New Atlantis, predicts The End of Big Twitter. Twitter used to be like your front porch, now it’s the middle of Broadway and he’s getting out:

I don’t like this change. I made friends – real friends – on Twitter when it was a place for conversation. I reconnected with people I had lost touch with. Whole new realms of knowledge were opened to me. I don’t want to foreclose on the possibility of further discovery, but the signal-to-noise ratio is so bad now that I don’t think I could pick out the constructive and interesting voices from all the mean-spiritedness and incomprehension; and so few smart people now dare to use Twitter in the old open way.

In similar vein Scott Rosenberg on WordYard writes about social media burnout and the revival of blogging:

Then something happens. The early users begin to burn out, or feel neglected, or resent how the platform owner is changing things, or just chafe at problems the service has never been able to fix. Eventually, they lose the love. They start looking for a new home. If there is a hive mind at work in these matters – and there’s almost certainly not just one but many – it rouses itself and, at some critical moment, moves its energy center elsewhere.

Brent Simmons on inessential is also fed up with the exploitation by social media companies, but keen to keep blogging:

What I do care about is that my blog isn’t part of a system where its usefulness is just a hook to get me to use it. It works the way I want to, and the company running the servers (DreamHost) doesn’t care one fig what I do.

Nick Carr on Rough Type takes these arguments further, considering the wider picture of Big Internet, and concludes:

These trends … stem from a sense of exhaustion with what I’m calling Big Internet. By Big Internet, I mean the platform- and plantation-based internet, the one centered around giants like Google and Facebook and Twitter and Amazon and Apple. Maybe these companies were insurgents at one point, but now they’re fat and bland and obsessed with expanding or defending their empires. They’ve become the Henry VIIIs of the web. And it’s starting to feel a little gross to be in their presence. So, yeah, I’m down with this retro movement. Bring back personal blogs. Bring back RSS. Bring back the fun. Screw Big Internet.

The web we want

So what kind of web do we want? 25 years ago, Sir Tim Berners-Lee gave the web to the world. To mark the 25th anniversary of this turning point Web We Want is running a three-part festival at Southbank Centre, London. The Web We Want movement is calling on everyone, everywhere to play their part in shaping and enhancing the web.

As part of the festival Tim Berners-Lee spent an evening in conversation with SCL President Richard Susskind on September 27, reported by Roger Bickerstaff on the SCL site:

Susskind asked what worries Berners-Lee most about the Web. His main worries relate to the extent to which the open and collaborative nature of the Web is being challenged. He mentioned the problems over State censorship limiting Web access in various countries. He said that this had been a concern for him well before Snowden and he talked at some length about State surveillance. He commented that in countries where Web access is not limited, the Web can be monitored to track the activities of political opponents and dissidents and be used to ”˜round them up’. He also discussed the risks associated with large company Web ”˜silos’ and the lack of exposure this brings to the benefits of the Web if people simply use a single site. (Presumably Facebook – but Berners-Lee is very careful not to mention any specific names). Web users then don’t experience the range of opportunities that the Web has to offer. The increasing lack of ”˜net neutrality’ and the prioritisation of net traffic is also a concern.

Image by Anonymous9000 on Flickr

Delia’s legal web picks

Follow Delia Venables on Twitter @deliavenables.

The following items have been selected from Delia’s “New” page.

Matrix Law International (the wider group associated with Matrix Chambers) have launched their new web site

Matrix International is a group of independent and specialist lawyers covering a wide range of areas of law. They can provide representation in a dispute resolution forum or expert advice on the issues of a case. Matrix has worked in over one hundred countries and are regularly instructed by solicitors, in-house counsel, governments, multinational corporations, international organisations, NGOs and individuals. There are around 80 members of the organisation of which most are barristers. Between them, they speak 12 languages including French, Russian, Hindi, Urdu and Arabic. They have offices in London and Geneva. The UK part of the organisation is Matrix Chambers.

Important new legal information site comes to the UK

FindLaw UK, part of the Thomson Reuters Group, has now been relaunched as a major new legal information site. Based on the USA version, the UK site is aimed at two major groups – consumers and lawyers.

For consumers:

A major section called Learn About the Law. There are substantial sections on 14 areas of law: Bankruptcy and Debt, Consumer Law, Criminal Law, Dispute Resolution, Employment Law, Family Law, Immigration Law, Law and Government, Motoring Law, Personal Injury Law, Property law, Small Business Law, Tax Law and Wills and Inheritance.

FindLaw UK Legal Community (a Forum) which enables consumers and presumably lawyers to discuss particular problems.

Solicitor Directory which has 10,000 solicitors in the database. This directory has been in existence for some time but has now been relaunched as part of this larger Findlaw site. The user can search by area of law and by location to find a list of solicitors (although you cannot use the directory to look up a particular solicitor, as you can in the Law Society Directory). Solicitors can pay a fee for an enhanced entry in the directory.

For solicitors:

Advertising in the directory as above, with a number of different tiers of pricing and visibility.

FindLaw UK is a service for building websites. As it says on the site “FindLaw UK from Thomson Reuters offers trusted law firm marketing solutions from website builds, design and content writing, to blogging services and social media, helping to drive the kind of traffic you want.”

Daily news and blogs.

Open for advice by phone for criminal matters, 24 hours a day

Mackesys Solicitors, based in South London, are one of the biggest providers of criminal defence legal aid services in the country. With over 30 UK qualified criminal lawyers in South East London, South London and Kent, they provide free legal advice at any Police Station or Court in and around the Greater London area, at any time day or night. The numbers are 0207 639 0888 during office hours and 0800 696 999 out of office hours.

Liverpool solicitors open every day of the week – is this a first?

Paul Rooney is a firm of solicitors who have been in Stanley Street, in Liverpool, for over 30 years. They have recently moved to new premises in Tarleton Street and are now open every day of the week – from 8am–8pm Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm Saturdays and 11am-5pm on Sundays. The firm cover personal injury claims, including large scale incidents, as well as housing disrepair and care home fee claims. More details here.

Manchester firm provides a glossary of legal terms for people involved in divorce and separation

Pinnington Law of Salford, Manchester, have created a glossary of legal terms in divorce and separation, to help participants understand the legal processes they will need to follow. The glossary includes technical terms involved in court proceedings and legal documents as well as different child arrangement orders and agreements for which the participant can apply. There is general information on divorce and other areas of law on the main Pinnington site here.

Firms of solicitors with lots of useful, free legal information on their web site

Stowe Family Law is apparently the UK’s largest standalone family law firm but it is still a very personal one. Senior partner Marilyn Stowe is well known as a dedicated and (where necessary) hard hitting divorce lawyer. The web site covers the several stages of a divorce, from getting started, the actual divorce, children, financial issues, maintenance issues and “life afterwards”. There is also news, a blog and a downloadable book on “Divorce and Splitting up” for 99p.

Firms of solicitors doing personal injury work have to battle with claims companies for the business

Firms of solicitors doing personal injury work, have to battle with hundreds (or is it thousands?) of claims companies which, whilst regulated by the Claims Management Regulator at the Ministry of Justice, can be quite small and inexperienced and certainly do not have the level of commitment to their clients generally manifested by solicitors. It seems to me that firms of solicitors have not really found a way of getting their greater experience (and reliability) across to potential clients. Indeed, I find that they often set up a separate web site with a catchy claims-related name, and then do not stress, or sometimes even mention, that they are solicitors. Surely solicitors should be making the most of the fact that they *are* solicitors? And what can they do to make the most of that?

The first barrister-only entity to have been awarded ABS status by the SRA is doing well

Richmond Chambers Immigration Barristers is an award-winning, innovative partnership of specialist immigration barristers and other immigration law professionals. They provide expert legal advice and representation directly to the public, in relation to all aspects of UK immigration law. They are regulated by the BSB as a chambers, and also by the SRA as an ABS. That sounds like a lot of regulation, but they seem to thrive on it! They were in fact the first barrister-only entity to have been awarded ABS status by the SRA; they were Runner-Up for the ‘ABS of the Year’ award at The Lawyer Awards 2014. They received 400 fee paying clients in the first 9 months of operation and they come top in Google for “immigration barrister”.

Interesting commercial system for putting individuals and lawyers in touch with each other, from Australia

LawPath is a commercial service in Australia, allowing customers to ask a legal question and connect with a lawyer from the Lawpath network for a free 30 minute consultation. Sophisticated matching technology identifies qualified local lawyers (around Australia) who are interested in assisting with the matter. The user can also buy legal documents, many supplied by LexisNexis, to use themselves, with a personal lawyer review of the documents available as an option. The firms pay a monthly subscription fee to be part of the scheme and be listed in the directory. The scheme only started in February 2013 but already seems to be attracting considerable interest.

Law firm offering an important legal resource in the field of immigration

Gherson is a leading London firm specialising in UK immigration, nationality, European Union Law, human rights law and asylum. The site is in 3 languages, including Russian and Chinese and there are brochures in another 7 languages. There is a large amount of information on the site on all possible topics relating to UK immigration law and also a library of articles on important current legal developments and a blog. This site is an amazing resource.

SRA will provide its data for the public domain

The SRA has agreed to share its data on solicitors (including information on past disciplinary issues) with comparison websites set up by third parties by the end of this year. This is in response to a call from the Legal Services Consumer Panel to provide more information for (other) online registers of practitioners. This will be the precursor for the development of an online register of solicitor firms that can feed directly to comparison sites, expected by the end of 2015. The full story is in The Law Society Gazette, including some very strong viewer comments from viewers as to why this is a bad idea and will just lead to the provision of “statistically meaningless data”.

New type of service offered by a law firm

Woolley & Co. is a law firm with an amazing amount of free legal information on their web site relating to family law and divorce. They also offer an interesting range of “fixed price advice packages” for example Uncontested petitioner divorce and Uncontested respondent divorce. This is an interesting variant on the DIY packages for divorce, since the lawyer remains in charge.

New body formed for compliance professionals

A new membership body for risk and compliance professionals, the Legal Compliance Association, is being launched following a resounding call for the Solicitors Regulation Authority to issue further guidance on outcomes focused regulation (OFR) and resolve unanswered questions. This will be open to anyone with an interest in legal compliance, whether they are working for a traditional law firm, alternative business structure or an in-house legal department. The new body will enable the risk and compliance community to share information which will be very useful to compliance officers and other support teams. Managing Partner has more on this story.

Tighter financial situation for legal aid is leading to some new ways of working for barristers

Dartford Chambers was established in response to the reductions in legal aid for Family Law. They offer a cost-effective alternative for those who can no longer obtain legal aid but who still need help from a specialist family lawyer. They provide clerking and administrative services to fit barristers’ needs, for example, enabling barristers to find a more flexible work/life balance working from home, without the overheads of large London sets. They welcome applications from practitioners specialising in ancillary/financial relief, contact, residence, care proceedings, adoption or special guardianship, and Court of Protection matters. You can contact Elaine Cheeseman on or call 01322 314706.

The Law Society has been granted “unprecedented” access to the United Nations

The Law Society has been awarded Special Consultative Status to the United Nations, which gives it scope to collaborate with member states on issues including human rights and the rule of law, and contribute to discussions on the Council’s agenda on an international and domestic level. Consultative status for an organisation allows it actively to engage with the Economic and Social Council of the UN, and its subsidiary bodies, as well as with the UN secretariat, programmes, funds and agencies. That’s a great vote of confidence – well done, Law Society.

Solicitors Regulation Authority grants first licence to local authority-owned ABS

Local Government Lawyer reports that the SRA has given the green light to the first Alternative Business Structure to be majority owned by a local authority. Under the ABS licence, the legal teams at Buckinghamshire County Council and Milton Keynes Fire Authority will be able to operate through a private limited company called Buckinghamshire Law Plus. They say that the business is projected to make a £1.7m shared profit over its first five years and that the public and voluntary sector community will benefit from having “a trusted, and extremely competitively-priced, law firm at their disposal.” The contracts of the existing 63 fee-earners will be changed so they are employees of both the council and Buckinghamshire Law Plus.