Legal Web Watch October 2016

Legal Web Watch complements the Internet Newsletter for Lawyers, edited by Nick Holmes and Delia Venables. The last issue of the Newsletter published in September. The next issue will publish mid-November.

Do you need CPD?

Our new Internet for Lawyers CPD 2016 competence courses are based on materials that have appeared in the Newsletter. They will guide you through the legal resources and tools available, help you understand the internet and the legal issues it raises and assist you in the practical application of internet services to your legal practice.

For 2016 we have added the facility for you to maintain a learning and development record that will satisfy SRA and BSB CPD requirements.

Solicitors can earn up to 16 hours CPD, barristers up to 12 hours CPD, online right now.

An individual full subscription for access to all materials and CPD record management costs £120+VAT; a group subscription for up to 5 members costs £300+VAT; larger groups £60+VAT each additional member.

Full details and online ordering and access

Recent articles in the Internet Newsletter for Lawyers

What can conveyancers do in a fragile property market?
Why the legal industry shouldn't wait for QASA
Changes to CPD
Confidently confidential
Chatbots for customer service
IT security for barristers
Cloud-based software for lawyers
Introducing the GDPR

The need for technological competence

Across the pond, in 2012, the American Bar Association formally approved a change to their Model Rules of Professional Conduct to make clear that lawyers have a duty to be competent not only in the law and its practice, but also in technology, amending Comment 8 to Model Rule 1.1 to read as follows:

"Maintaining Competence
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."

To date, 24 State bars have adopted this duty.

Leading legal tech commentator Bob Ambrogi has been keeping a close eye on this and summarises what it means for lawyers:

"You cannot assess the benefits and risks associated with various kinds of technology if you know nothing about the technology. Even if your state has yet to adopt this change, it is only a matter of time before it does. Don’t be a Luddite who fears or resists technology. Neither do you have to become a geek. Make an effort to understand the basics of the technology you use. Get on social media, if you’re not already. Ask questions. Learn. When it comes to technology, there is no more burying your head in the sand."

Richard Heinrich on the One Legal blog examines what it means to be technologically competent and suggests a few examples:

  • lawyers need to know enough about eDiscovery to supervise a case and find out when to outsource;
  • lawyers need to have a reasonable knowledge of secure electronic communications; and
  • lawyers need to understand the different rules and procedures that apply to electronically- versus physically-delivered filings.

In England and Wales the Solicitors Regulation Authority makes no mention at all of "technology" in its Statement of solicitor competence, neither does the Bar Standards Board in its proposed new approach to CPD. This is perhaps understandable since effective use of technology is a means by which a particular lawyer competence might be demonstrated, rather than a necessary lawyer competence in and of itself. Nevertheless, appropriate mentions of technology would have been apposite I think, if only to remind tech laggards of the need to keep up to date.

Joanna Goodman in the Law Society Gazette reviews the differing approaches to legal IT training taken by a number of larger firms:

"Do lawyers need to learn to code? Should firms start including technology competencies in role profiling and assessment, or should it be down to individual lawyers to make sure they are up to speed with the latest software tools? Opinions are divided, ranging from suggestions that all lawyers should learn to code to the opinion that beyond the basic IT competence that is expected in any workplace, fee-earners should focus their efforts on – fee-earning."

Competence with various legal technologies is all very well, but there is one overarching technology that might be forgotten, simply because it is so all pervasive that we now take it for granted—the internet.

It may be that 5 year olds these days are quite proficient in using the internet, but they do not understand it sufficiently, with consequences that daily make the news. Likewise for the grown-up, professional lawyer, an appropriate higher level of understanding of the internet is required to effectively conduct their practice and advise and service their clients. This means knowing enough about new and emerging technologies to understand how they can benefit your practice and your clients. Further, matters of trust, privacy and confidentiality, copyright, contract and more are relevant to just about everything you do on the internet. You don't have to be an expert in any of these, but you need to know enough about them to be able to practice competently.

Nick Holmes is Editor of the Internet Newsletter for Lawyers and Legal Web Watch. Follow him on Twitter @nickholmes.

Image: cc by Marc Di Luzio on Flickr.

Delia’s legal web picks

The following items have been selected from Delia Venables’ “New” page.

What can conveyancers do in a fragile property market?

Improving the conveyancing process is the topc of a recent Newsletter Feature. Simon Farthing of LexisNexis Enterprise Systems looks at several ways to improve the conveyancing process: an entrepreneurial spirit, improving efficiency with workflow technology, automating administrative processes, embedding risk management and negligence pre-emption into the conveyancing process and competitive pricing.

ICLR Weekly Roundup is back

ICLR Weekly News returns after the summer vacation, covering the latest news on Brexit with a “Bill to repeal the European Communities Act 1972 but retain all the laws enacted or implemented thereunder", the reshuffle of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) which appears to be stumbling from one crisis to another, interesting legal developments from around the world and some latest legal drama... always a good read.

The Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates (QASA) is still not implemented

Don't wait for QASA is the topic of a recent Newsletter Feature. Despite the fact that the Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates (QASA) is still not implemented (originally scheduled for implementation in December 2011 but several times delayed), Roy Morgan of Kaplan Altior says that the legal industry should prepare for it now by taking an appropriate course on Higher Rights of Audience. Then accreditation (when QASA is finally implemented) will be much quicker and easier. Details on the courses available can be found here

Linex is now Vable - a key current awareness automation platform

Vable, previously known as Linex Systems, is a current awareness automation platform used primarily by Law Librarians and other Information Professionals to manage news and other subscription sources. Any source can be plugged into the platform - from websites to RSS feeds - which enables the library to manage all sources in one place. The librarian can set up rules to select the most relevant information. This can then be either manually or automatically collated into alerts so that users receive one single email alert with all the information they need.

Free expert commentary on cases from Lamb Chambers and LegalRSS

Lamb Chambers (a leading set of barristers specialising in Commercial, Property, Personal Injury, and Intellectual Property Law) and LEGALRSS ("instant news for your website") are working together to provide firms of solicitors with free case commentaries prepared by barristers at Lamb Chambers. Firms can set up a personalised newsfeed tailored for them for their intranets. The system uses technology and is free for firms of solicitors.

To obtain commentaries, contact Joe Reevy at LegalRSS ( stating the categories of commentary required. Currently available are Commercial - Costs Disputes - IP, Media and Entertainment - Lamb Chambers News - PI and Clinical Negligence - and Property.

The service, offered free by both Lamb Chambers and LegalRSS, is intended to build into a worthwhile resource for busy practitioners.

Insight Legal wins ILFM Solicitors’ Software Users Award 2016

Insight Legal has won the 2016 Solicitors’ Software Users Award from the Institute of Legal Finance and Management (ILFM). The ILFM is the UK’s leading membership organisation in the legal sector that provides a range of services for legal finance experts and legal management professionals such as legal cashiers and practice managers. Each year, they produce a Listed Suppliers Guide focusing on Legal Accounts and Administration systems and services and ask their members to score their legal accounts software package in a number of different areas covering training, helpdesk support and system functionality. Insight Legal is a Legal Accounts, Practice Management and Case Management system designed for small to medium sized law firms.

Free courses from Google

The Digital Garage is a framework from Google to provide "a growth engine for digital skills". There are free courses on everything "from search to social media, from managing a website to online marketing - everything to help you grow your business or career". The courses are all free and you can obtain certification as well. If anyone has taken any of these courses, please let me know at and I will put your comments up here!

Innovative training in Online Dispute Resolution (ODR)

ODR is fast becoming very important. The European Union has passed a Regulation on ODR under which there is now an EU run website to direct the parties in disputes related to online consumer transactions to various approved ADR services operating online. From 15th February 2016 it became a legal duty on all in the EU who sell products or services online to carry a link on their websites to the EU ODR platform. This will have the effect of promoting a large increase in the use of ODR in such disputes. Graham Ross, long time proponent (and initiator) of ODR is now providing a course on ODR which has already been taken by over 120 mediators in 12 countries. People taking the course have access to a specially prepared library of ODR information and topics, together with access to video and slide presentations, live webinars, personal training (via web conferencing), face to face training and roleplay sessions (conducting actual mediations.)

Those taking the course successfully receive a Certificate and will be enrolled on the panel of ODR practitioners. This will enable them to become part of a growing network of ODR professionals. Full details of the course can be seen on the Mediation Room website here.

See also Graham Ross's article on the EU ODR platform and also Allan Carton's article on Blended Learning (yes, this course is a good example of Blended Learning).

The Internet Society works for an open Internet across the world

The Internet Society (ISOC) is an international, non-profit organization founded in 1992 to provide leadership in Internet-related standards, education, access, and policy. It states that its mission is "to promote the open development, evolution and use of the Internet for the benefit of all people throughout the world". One of its key aims is to facilitate the open development of standards, protocols, administration, and the technical infrastructure of the Internet for the benefit of all, not just the few. It is centred in the USA and also Geneva but has "chapters" all over the world and also works via 140 organisations world wide. Its current work is based in the provision of standards, public policy, access, and education. As well as a great deal of information on the site itself, there is extensive information in Wikipedia.

New "Dispersed" law firm Lawyers Inc. adopts outsoured cashiering from Quill Pinpoint

There are a number of models for how "dispersed" law firms work, but the key point is that the individual Solicitors, whilst part of the overall firm, operate largely independently. One of these firms, Lawyers Inc., decided to set up, from the beginning, with an outsourced cashiering service and also payroll, and they chose Quill Pinpoint. Apparently, it is going very well, with the Financial Controller Jason Joyce, saying that a great deal of his time is saved and there is added reassurance relating to security and compliance. There is a full case study here.

You can also read the article I wrote recently about this new type of "Dispersed firm" in the Internet Newsletter for Lawyers.

Law Society releases practice note about e-signatures for commercial contracts

The new practice note has been developed by a joint working party from the Law Society, the City of London Law Society and leading City law firms, and has been reviewed and approved by leading counsel Mark Hapgood QC. Law Society Company Law Committee chairperson Elizabeth Wall commented: "Although e-signatures have been in use for some time, there has been no consensus among the legal industry on their validity. This practice note will help the industry get comfortable with electronic signatures and embrace the practical benefits of e-signing." There is an introduction to electronic signatures, a run-through of the background, an explanation of the Legislative framework, a lengthy and detailed section on the use of electronic signatures to execute English law governed documents, and coverage of various other releated topics. The full practice note can be found here.

Norwel is taken over by Civica

Norwel has been one of the shining stars of the UK legal software world for over 35 years - since the very beginning of computer software for lawyers - and they were in existence in the very early days of my own computer consultancy for lawyers in the early 80's. They tended to deal with the larger corporate firms, whilst I myself tended to advise smaller firms, but I was always aware of their reputation for quality software and excellent support. Their latest generation Prescient+ system provides a flexible suite of case management and practice management for larger organisations, including the Desktop Online portal for delivery of online client services via a secure web interface. They have been now been taken over by Civica, a market-leading specialist in digital solutions, critical applications and outsourcing services. Civica supply more than 4,000 organisations in 10 countries around the world. This may well be an excellent oportunity for both companies, to bring their experience and resources together, but I am still sorry that a star of my own world has now been taken into a larger universe. There is more information from Civica here.

Mini interview - Delia questions Richard Hugo-Hamman of LEAP

Q: LEAP is encouraging small law firms to compete with the large conveyancing shops. How is that going?

A: Since we started getting our conveyancing message out earlier this year, hundreds of firms doing residential conveyancing in England and Wales have introduced LEAP. They are providing better client service with happier staff and are operating more efficiently.

Q: What do the conveyancing firms particularly like about LEAP?

A: LEAP combines highly automated legal forms and precedents (ours and the client's) which are constantly kept up to date; case management, fee recording and legal accounting all in one elegant application. Our design decisions are driven by client feedback and this has made our software meaningful and easy to use by anyone familiar with the conveyancing process.

Q: What about searching?

A: It has never been easier for a conveyancer to order, receive and administer property searches and to get SDLT paid. We work closely with InfoTrack (2016 Search Provider of the Year winners) and conveyancers can order their searches and pay SDLT directly out of the matter in LEAP. The result of a search is in the document management system, the cost is against the correct matter ledger, and a special reconciliation function makes it easy to check for accuracy. Clients also pay just one bill for all searches which saves a lot of time consuming manual work.

Q: For the future?

A: Helping small law firms to compete with Panel Managers and Private Equity owned conveyancing companies is crucial to our purpose. We recently released a new product, Perfect Portal, which is a conveyancing sales management system to help firms doing residential conveyancing to provide better client service and to look after all transaction stakeholders pro-actively through the conveyancing transaction. It helps them build their conveyancing practice.

Free2Convey continues to develop and offer links between conveyancing systems

Free2Convey, the free online conveyancing portal developed by Pracctice Ltd, and backed by all leading Suppliers of Software to Law Firms in the UK, enables all the parties in a conveyancing transaction to see the progress of their chain from instruction to post-completion. The ability for all parties in a sale to see the chain is vital to provide efficient conveyancing but in the past, the overall chain has not been visible since a number of different conveyancing systems may be used. Free2convey provides a free tool which all other conveyancing systems can link into and also provides various different ways to do this including a "drag and drop" application as well as full integration between the various systems. Further developments are in hand for secure exchanging documents and information with their clients, other lawyers and third parties.

Delia Venables is joint editor of the Internet Newsletter for Lawyers. Follow her on Twitter @deliavenables.

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