Legal Web Watch March 2015

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Continuing competence after 1 April

In the March issue of the Newsletter, Ruth Bird and Natasha Choolhun consider the role digital literacy skills should play in the new competence regime being ushered in by the SRA. The SRA Board has now approved the Competence Statement which sets out the skills solicitors ought to possess. Technological competence is not explicitly amongst them.

From 1 April solicitors can choose to adopt the new SRA approach to ensuring continuing competence, which affords the flexibility to shape learning and development according to their specific needs. This requires them to reflect continually on continuing professional development. To help them in this the SRA [have now published] an online Toolkit.

It’s interesting to note that the American Bar Association in 2012 specifically amended their Rules of Professional Conduct to refer to technological competence. The relevant comment to Model Rule 1.1 reads:

“[8] To maintain the requisite knowledge and skill, a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology, engage in continuing study and education and comply with all continuing legal education requirements to which the lawyer is subject.”

And, as I write this, a piece on Slaw asks Why Do Lawyers Resist Ethical Rules Requiring Competence With Technology?

Technological awareness and general competence is one thing, but should solicitors be required to use certain technologies? A senior partner in Australian firm claims that it is possible that professional bodies could mandate this in the near future.

While you’re pondering all this, bear in mind that for now solicitors can still earn CPD hours in the traditional fashion with CPD courses such as as ours. We’re here to help with your internet competence and will be adapting our training to the new regime as it beds down.

Image by Paul Townsend on Flickr

Social media platforms for lawyers

I’ve been looking at two new social media platforms designed for lawyers: Mootis (“specifically tailored for what is a vast legal services marketplace that extends far beyond the Bar”) and Passle (“enables Partners and senior professionals to create and share insights on developments within their field”). I’ve registered on both services and hacked about a bit, as well as reading up their about pages and some reviews. So, extensive research!

Mootis is a sort of souped up version of Twitter+LinkedIn with some added legal feeds and other features. My problem with it is I don’t get its USP. What is it trying to help me do?

Its advertised primary key feature is that “Moots can exceed 140 characters (up to 500 words) – enabling users to express their opinion with more authority, weight and substance.” That’s of course a reference to Twitter’s limit of 140 characters per tweet. That limit is restrictive, but it’s not a bug, it’s a feature! That’s why Twitter is so popular with many of us; it encourages rapid sharing, quickfire exchanges etc. So sure, if you don’t want that, you go somewhere else. … Mootis maybe?

Founder Bill Braithwaite QC of Exchange Chambers in Manchester says, “we feel the world of legal services is large enough to warrant its own, bespoke platform”. Surely the question is does the world of legal services, need or want a bespoke platform?

History is littered with the bones of legal networks that failed to find traction on the web. The very successful (pre-internet) LINK failed to make the transition. There was LIX too, though my memory is short on that one. The internet spoiled it for them, because on the net anybody could connect with anybody and link to anything. Neverthless, intrepid innovators tried to establish communities of lawyers on the web. Remember Law City anyone? Not even Google does.

Although the many legal portal sites of different flavours that grew up could be regarded in some senses as communities, lawyers started taking up social networking only in 2008 and the big three – Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook (not so much for professional purposes) – have made the running since then. Even Google, with all its influence, is calling it a day with its Google+ social network (though, importantly, popular aspects of it will be further developed).

I don’t want Silicon Valley to take all the spoils and there is plenty of scope for home grown social media applcations for lawyers; I will give Mootis a go and I wish it well, but it does need to find some focus.

Passle is a blogging platform that makes it easy for experts to share their insights online. Say Passle, “It’s been proven that firms regularly producing knowledge pieces generate more traffic, and leads, than those that don’t. Passle facilitates this process by providing busy experts with the tools to share their expertise with the world in a time-efficient manner.”

With a few clicks you can grab an excerpt from an article you are reading, write a comment or longer analysis, and post it, complete with accompanying image from the original and with selected tweets about the same source shown alongside.

Your Passle is discoverable by other Passle users, who can follow you and repost your passles, and it can be embedded on your own website.

There is a substantial annual per user subscription, but if it suits you and gets your experts generating content and hence business as Passle claim, it should be worth it.

20 years ago

It was 20 years ago today or thereabouts that I published the first pages of what is now the infolaw website, tracking the nascent “legal web”. Here’s what I wrote about it 10 years later:

“In the Autumn of 1994 Jeffrey Green Russell was the first UK solicitors practice to establish its own website. Thus began the UK legal web. By early 1995 it comprised a handful of intrepid law firms and barristers, the Law Schools at Bristol and Strathclyde and infolaw and Delia Venables – the first portal sites. Significant other early adopters were the International Centre for Commercial Law (Legalease), the Society for Computers and Law, Cloudnine Technology (Charles Christian) and the Law Society. In 1996 HMSO started publishing Acts on the web; by June 1996 most of the leading law publishers had a web presence; Parliament went online and the House of Lords began publishing its judgments; and in June 1997 the LCD started posting significant judgments. The rest is history.”

To view early versions of these and any other sites, use the The Internet Archive Wayback Machine:

Yahoo in 1996

HMSO in 1996

The Law Society in 1997

infolaw in 1998

Cloudnine in 1998

Google in 1998

Delia’s Legal Web Picks

See Delia’s Legal Web Picks March 2015

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