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.

2003 marked the dawn of mainstream social media, with MySpace and LinkedIn both launching the same year and Facebook hot on their heels in 2004. Since then, social media (or “social” for short) seems to have permeated every aspect of our culture and daily lives, simultaneously bringing people closer together and driving them further apart. Business has been using social media as a marketing tool ever since its inception and, although the legal sector was a late adopter, many lawyers are now regularly taking advantage of social media channels to promote themselves, find new clients, stay on top of trends and to recruit new talent. But do the benefits of staying connected outweigh the disadvantages?

Fashion and technology have long been on a collision course and, like so much, the pandemic has accelerated things in a dramatic and life altering way.

It’s no secret that the fashion sector has been particularly badly hit by Covid-19. The saving grace for many brands has been the investment that it has made in the digital and technology business. It’s fair to say that businesses with a strong ecommerce offering have fared much better than the competition – particularly if they sell a lot of “athleisure”!

There has been a lot of debate about the thorny issue of automated facial recognition in public spaces (see Internet Newsletter for Lawyers, October 2019). Much of the criticism has been levelled at the spectre of surveillance creep and the danger of creating a Big Brother state (which has arguably already happened in China with their social credit system).

Zoom – Just One Look and My Heart Went Boom

Despite the fact that video conferencing is a very small part of Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) and how best to mediate online, Fat Larry’s 1980s hit seems to have been taken to heart by mediators who, anxious not to delay mediations due to the Covid-19 lockdown, have, after “just one look” fallen rapidly in love with the Zoom video conferencing platform.

Advice from the MD of Inpractice UK on coping with the current crisis, with insights from several other PMS suppliers.

The impact of Covid-19 is being felt by all of us to varying degrees. People should work from home if they can but that may not be possible yet for everyone in your practice. As many of you will be doing this already, there is advice here to help refine that experience. Also, on the different set of challenges that everyone will face now to maintain a healthy working environment for people not used to working from home in relative isolation.

On 3 March 2020 the Lord Chancellor, Robert Buckland QC, made a written ministerial statement welcoming the report of the Law Commission on Electronic Execution of Documents (Law Com No 386). That report concludes that there is no need for formal primary legislation to reinforce the legal validity of electronic signatures on documents, and that the existing framework makes clear that businesses and individuals can feel confident in using e-signatures in commercial transactions. This is consistent with guidance given by the Law Society on 21 July 2016 and established practice, and supported by case law.

Can technology improve our health and transform healthcare? A whole panoply of tech companies are working on a range of products and services which aim to answer these questions in the affirmative. The burgeoning industry which has been dubbed “medtech” has already led to some fascinating (and controversial) partnerships, perhaps most notably involving Google Deepmind being granted access to NHS patient data. It has been estimated that the medical device and technology sector could be worth around $500 billion to the global economy by 2021. But despite the potential for healthy growth, there are also many concerns associated with medtech, not least in terms of data protection. These are discussed below, including a section on how health data is being used in the fight against coronavirus.

The dreaded Covid-19 is causing panic, and as digital marketers, we may be facing leaner times as our businesses are putting a laser focus on profitability, and ensuring every cost gives the great return on investment.

Businesses are looking more carefully at budgets, making sure we can squeeze every penny of profit out of our investments, and looking for the most cost-effective ways of delivering our products and services.

Marketing budgets may appear to be a soft target for businesses looking to make budget cuts. But a cut in marketing activity is a short term fix that is sure to have long term consequences. Maintaining visibility in your market is essential for long term profitability and continued investment.

And our customers are also watching the pennies, but they are still spending money. They may be spending less, but we need to figure out what they’re spending their money on. And they don’t want to risk wasting a penny. They want to buy the right products, from companies they can trust.

Increasingly, the information we need and use every day is stored, accessed and controlled online.

We have become accustomed to the convenience and efficiency of being able to access significant swathes of information about ourselves, our business and the world at the tap of a button.

Many of us accept that such convenience comes at a cost, with some platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube primarily being funded by advertisers.

We understand that, in order to provide a free service, we must endure some form of targeted advertising, assuming this is just the same as old fashioned TV or bus stop advertising, albeit in a different form.

Every day we volunteer information about ourselves, whether by completing an online enquiry form, subscribing to social media platforms or simply by opening an app on our phone.

But do we really know what happens to the information we share? Do we actually know what information we may be inadvertently revealing to others when we log on?