It is two years and one month since the coalition government decided not to raise the small claims limit for personal injury from £1,000 to £5,000. The then justice secretary, Chris Grayling, told Parliament in October 2013 that there were “good arguments” for increasing the limit “to raise incentives to challenge fraudulent or exaggerated insurance claims”.
Lawyers got something of a dressing down last week from Rocket Lawyer boss Mark Edwards. Mr Edwards said lawyers were not “great innovators” and not much would change while most firms were run entirely by lawyers. He was speaking in a small, cramped room in a basement of the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills – possibly reflecting the BIS view of legal services, but hopefully not.
Having recently written a feature on the growing adoption of artificial intelligence-type (AI) technologies in the legal marketplace for Legal Futures Insight, I’ve been speaking to people in a number of different walks of life about how AI might affect all of us. Curiously, a common response from skilled professionals is along the lines of a defensive ‘what I do is specialised and relies heavily on exclusively human qualities’. Professor Richard Susskind and his son, Oxford economics lecturer Daniel, in their book, The Future of the Professions: How Technology Will Transform the Work of Human Experts, note similarly that professionals see the advantages of AI in every field but their own.
The first, and most important, thing to remind everyone before I dissect the events of the last few weeks is that there is still no stain on the character of former Chief Legal Ombudsman Adam Sampson. There has never been any suggestion of fraud or wrongdoing around the expenses issue which led him to resign, and the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Justice, Richard Heaton, acknowledged before the justice select committee last month that, in the private sector, the arrangements would have passed muster.
Halloween 2015 will mark the beginning of the end of the hours-based CPD year. From 1 November 2016 it will be mandatory to move to the SRA’s new CPD model, whereby individuals make a declaration of competence to practise when applying for their practising certificate. Employers will share responsibility for ensuring people are, indeed, competent.
The public and the Bar can rest assured in the knowledge that it has a regulator looking after the public’s best interests, going by the high impact supervision returns report the Bar Standards Board published last week. We have been looking systematically, carefully, expertly, independently and fearlessly at what the Bar does. We are pleased to assure the public that the vast majority of barristers are doing a great job.
Today is a special day for all Back to the Future fans, and for those who don’t know or haven’t seen a newspaper today, 21 October 2015 is the day that Marty McFly arrived in the future. It’s worth looking at the film’s predictions and identifying what was made a reality, and what we have lived through or grown up with in terms of technological change.
A few months ago Google added car insurance to its ‘Google Compare’ suite of products, products which Google says are designed to help people make confident and more informed financial decisions. Did those in the insurance industry see this coming? Probably. Can they do much about it? Probably not. Are they worried by it? I should say so. So I pose this question. What if Google decided to launch a full range consumer legal services business in the UK tomorrow?
A cynic looking at the government’s consultation on “preserving and enhancing the quality of criminal advocacy” might well feel that Lord Chancellor Michael Gove was deliberately trying to foment trouble between the Bar and solicitors to divide and rule. It would be easy to characterise the proposals as giving the Bar what it wants by ‘doing something’ about those money-grabbing solicitors encroaching on the Bar’s patch. It’s hard to see anything that solicitors will like about them.
Legal Futures has gained exclusive access to what is believed to be the transcript of a secret meeting held recently between Lord Chancellor Michael Gove and a delegation from the Bar Council.