As you will be aware, it is a legal requirement for advisory firms to carry out ‘know your client’ checks. The purpose of doing so is to confirm your client’s identity and to seek to provide protection in respect of anti-money laundering (AML) and terrorist financing laws. The BHS experience before the House of Commons’ work and pensions committee and business, innovation and skills committee shows that firms need to think beyond AML obligations.
The results from this year’s legal services consumer tracker survey make for interesting reading. In its sixth year, the research finds that a firm’s reputation continues to grow in importance, holding its top slot as the number one factor influencing choice of lawyer, with price remaining a strong second, reflected in a shift towards higher numbers of fixed-fee transactions. Alongside, it reports that trust in lawyers has declined to 42%, from 47% in 2012. It’s useful information as far as it goes, but what is the sector going to do with it?
Tech is famous for its shorter and shorter hype cycles. Robot lawyers were all over the twitters only a few months ago and now people actually yell at you for even mentioning the thing. Of course, robot lawyers should not even have surfaced in the first place because no one is remotely close to building them. Lawyers should not fear for their livelihoods. But there is something that is much more important than robot lawyers. It’s robot clients. Or at least the proliferation of machines, automated transactions, and standardized processes where lawyers once controlled the terrain.
Following the Schrems decision by the European Court of Justice in October 2015, it is advisable that EU data continue to be stored in EEA locales. The DPA also require a certain level of security for the data storage from both data controllers and data processors. In 1995, when the DPA was developed, Mark Zuckerberg was 11 and cloud computing was still a wild notion embraced by few. To address this, a replacement for the current legislation has already been scheduled for 2018.
The Legal Services Board’s vision for the future of legal regulation reflects the build-up of years of frustration. Frustration at an illogical system where anyone can write a will, administer an estate or provide employment law advice, but only lawyers can do conveyancing as it is a reserved legal activity. And the reason for that? Because in 1804 Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger wanted to raise taxes on articles of clerkship and practising fees, and offered lawyers a conveyancing monopoly as compensation.
It goes without saying that being a partner in a law firm involves plenty of hard work. The more senior your role, the more effort and time that needs to be allocated towards management and making the hard-hitting business decisions that will drive the firm’s growth. As you ascend the partnership’s management ladder, the amount of time you can spend on your regular fee-earning work is reduced substantially, taking away the pleasures of being a solicitor.
In my last post, talking about the law firm of 2020, I ended with thoughts about how firms could undertake a radical review of their processes- and decide the best/cheapest person to do parts of it. This time I want to pick up on that point and talk some more about process decomposition. So let’s look at another industry again, this time farming. It is quite similar to law in some ways – a long-established industry, mainly traditional in its approach, and not inclined to change.
In what seems to have been an unstoppable train of decisions, rules and consultations making the life of claimant firms increasingly challenging, it made a welcome change to read the recent circuit judge ruling in Jones v Spire Healthcare. The cost implications of this ruling are of huge importance to many firms that have taken over books of personal injury work.
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?