With great data comes great responsibility, and law firms are no exception. Data breaches, hacking attempts or embarrassing leaks due to human error are becoming commonplace, with the legal sector particularly vulnerable due to the sensitive data they traffic in. And while law firms must employ increasingly sophisticated solutions to mitigate damaging data breaches, a simple solution is often neglected or ignored.
When my dad retired as a partner of a medium-sized law firm in 1996, he was invited to choose a parting gift. I suggested he might ask for a computer. What troubles it caused! Eventually someone put a screen-saver on it that said ‘Purgamentum init, exit purgamentum’ – ‘Garbage in, garbage out’. Twenty years on, getting along with technology is no longer optional. Law firms need to wake up to the fact that the practice of law is now a digital business. But we all need to feel understood. So how do people feature in all this?
People continue to have accidents, employment issues still arise, probate questions need answering, family problems need resolving and businesses still have issues with suppliers and contracts. And they all need legal advice to help them access justice. A key question, though, is what the complete change of personnel at the Ministry of Justice – under new justice secretary Liz Truss – will mean.
Many people have predicted a seismic change in the legal profession towards a digital commodity service in the next few years but that shift is happening right now. For those savvy firms that are now embracing it, they are finding they have access to a whole new world – the latent consumer. Did you know that by 2020, it is predicted that 70% of people will look for a video online via Google before seeking professional advice? In fact, that number is already at 50% today. How good is your website? When did you last record a video to generate a client lead?
A Bar Standards Board licensed entity – the formal name for ABS – has the potential to create the British equivalent of American trial lawyers. This will hopefully create the most effective and economic form of trial representation. Further, it will have the potential to create career paths where one can progress from a paralegal role to a trial advocate.
We’ve started serving English Brexit tea in our office. Some say it leaves a slightly bitter aftertaste while others find it quite refreshing. The suppliers told us they weren’t sure how it would turn out when they were blending it but apparently they’ve thrown out all the old varieties now and so, for good or bad, we’re stuck with it. I feel like a mug right now, as it happens.
Conveyancing is hard work – I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently. Here’s why. The work isn’t just limited to the complexities of legal paperwork and the necessary due diligence involved in transfers of title. Conveyancers are often unfairly maligned for delays in property transactions and then berated for deals falling through: a guaranteed driver of stress and anxiety that add to work pressures.
Nobody enjoys regulatory compliance. Those who say they do are lying. It’s an unglamorous job. Nobody will thank you for getting in the way of practising law or the being the ‘tail wagging the dog’. Overcoming internal inertia can be a real headache, and so the role is usually reduced to box-ticking and paper trails. Which, of course, is not what outcomes-focused regulation (or whatever OFR’s successor is being called) is all about.
The UK’s unexpected vote to leave the European Union is still fresh in our minds, as speculation grows about the next steps for the country. While we don’t yet know specifics about the effects on the legal industry following the referendum, we can assume that certain changes will follow in the personal injury sector.
The Competition and Markets Authority’s study of legal services – publication of which is due very shortly – is timely. Approaches have grown up that set out with good intentions but that may now have a negative impact on competition, market entry and the consumer interest. They also raise questions about quasi-regulatory activity that escapes the rigour of the Legal Services Board’s oversight. In essence we might ask, ‘who regulates?’