Legal Web Watch December 2015

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

Thanks to those who have already purchased our 2015 Internet for Lawyers CPD courses. Barristers still needing CPD for 2015, just click below for our new courses Access to Law and Resources and Internet Legal Issues (5 hours each). Our BSB CPD Provider ID is 1277.

We need to stop talking about AI

In a controversial 2003 article in the Harvard Business Review and a follow-up book with the same title, technology writer Nicholas Carr asked "Does IT Matter?" IT had become a commodity input; it had lost its mystique; it had become normal. Time was when the wheel was technology. But as the wheel was refined and its use proliferated, a wheel came to be regarded as just a wheel.

I'm reminded of that whilst witnessing the current deluge of articles about AI in law. AI in law has been around a long time, since the mid 80s if Richard Susskind can be taken as one of the founding fathers. But, whereas then the aim was to attempt to produce expert systems that could replicate legal reasoning, the second wave of AI, which provides much of the fuel for Susskind and son's The Future of the Professions, is doing things entirely differently, achieving results through "brute force processing and massive storage capacity". And we now take those resources for granted.

I have a black box in my car. It knows every road route in Europe; it knows the quickest route between A and B, taking account of my preferences, can warn me when traffic builds up and then recalculate a quicker route; it can guide me by animated map and by voice, directing me around myriad roundabouts and complex one way systems, in dulcet tones or not, as I choose. That's articial intelligence, is it not? Yet it's just a "satnav" and we've been using them for years.

Here is just some AI in law that is already pretty normal (extracted and adapted from Artificial Intelligence in Law – The State of Play in 2015 by Michael Mills in the Legal IT Insider):

Document automation products apply procedural rules and some inferencing to generate bespoke legal documents. That kicked off more than 20 years ago.

Legal research services have employed natural language processing (NLP) techniques for more than 10 years.

Technology-assisted review (TAR) uses natural language and machine learning techniques to analyse documents for discovery and is faster and better than humans. It is the success story of machine learning in the law.

Compliance systems combine expert systems and other reasoning techniques to provide fact- and context-specific answers to legal, compliance and policy questions.

Contract analysis applies natural language and machine learning techniques to aspects of the contract lifecycle from discovery to due diligence. Another success story for machine learning in the law.

At the end of the day, hyping AI is unhelpful. I'm with Ryan Mcleod who calls for an official moratorium on the term Artificial Intelligence in relation to the law. AI is just what computers do. Let's talk about that.

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

Image: By Saad Faruque on Flickr.

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Delia’s legal web picks

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

A key source of legal developments each day

The Guardian Law Section is a selection from the main Guardian news and editorial content related to law - and since the Guardian follows legal developments in considerable depth (both from an individual citizen's viewpoint and form the viewpoint of society as a whole) this leads to quite a large section of the paper ending up in the law section every day. You can access previous days' news selections down the page or you can search by topic, e.g. UK criminal justice, Human rights, Health, Prisons and probation.

My personal view of the cancellation of Veyo

It has always seemed to me that the big hole in the Veyo plan was that the full "chain view" for homebuyers, estate agents and conveyancers was only going to be possible if everyone was part of Veyo. But surely, the many very well established suppliers of case management software (including, DPS, Eclipse, Easyconvey, Hoowla, LawCloud, LEAP, Perfect Software, Professional Technology, PureCase, SOS and Tikit - and quite a few others - see Software Suppliers for a much longer list) were not going to sit back and let a new entrant take their business! Once the Legal Software Suppliers Association (LSSA) took on the issue, they were able to develop a linking system module called Free2Convey, with all the key case management companies involved, which means that there can be just the one "chain view". Problem solved.

Halsbury’s Law Exchange provides serious discussions on major issues

Halsbury’s Law Exchange is a legal think tank, hosted by LexisNexis. It aims to communicate ideas on reform or legal direction to decision makers and the legal sector and promote debate through papers, reports, events and media pieces. As it says about itself "Through our legal white papers and current projects, it seeks to be a legal think tank in the true sense of the term; to debate the legal issues of the day without political or commercial agenda and to influence and prompt change." There are in-depth papers on most areas of law (rather than a rapid fire approach of short items) and an opportunity to comment and debate online. The Law Exchange is run by a Board consisting of leading lawyers, with a wide range of contributors and chaired by Joshua Rozenberg.

Thomson Reuters and Bloomsbury Publishing work together on e-books

Thomson Reuters and Bloomsbury Publishing will jointly publish a selection of Bloomsbury’s legal print titles as eBooks through Thomson Reuters ProView, the leading professional eReader platform.

ProView is the first eReader platform specifically built for professional use, with advanced features such as full-text search, secured notes and highlights, and content updating. It is available for iPad users at the Apple App Store, Android tablet users at Google Play and the Amazon Appstore for Android, and for Windows and Mac users.

Thomson Reuters will distribute ten titles from Bloomsbury Publishing: Law of Torts, Financial Services Investigations and Enforcement, EMI Share Options, Financial Services Law Guide, Accounting Principles for Tax Purposes, Fraud – A Practitioner’s Guide, Irish Land Law, The Scottish Legal System, Richardson and Clark: Sexual Offences a Practitioners Guide, and Sports Law and Practice.

The obstacles facing access to justice for all

Barrister Magazine covers President of the Law Society Jonathan Smithers' words on the obstacles facing access to justice for all. Here is my shortened version:

"Two months ago, the Queen Mary Legal Advice Centre in London had to temporarily close its enquiry system for the first time in nine years due to a surge in demand.

The consequences of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO), which removed legal aid from hundreds of thousands of people, are coming home to roost. Before the cuts, this Advice Centre received around 120 enquiries a month. In September last year, it received more than twice that, with 243 requests for legal advice, in areas where the cuts have had the most impact.

Legal aid cuts are also having an impact on the mental health of those denied access to legal support, and this has a knock-on impact to public services.

Litigants in person have also greatly increased and this particularly affects victims of domestic violence who now face tough evidence requirements before they can even receive advice and assistance.

We await the Ministry of Justice findings on the impact of its policies on access to justice. The experience of the past two years has proved that removing lawyers from the process is a false economy and it is having a significant knock-on cost for the public purse, as well as a devastating personal impact on people who cannot get help."

Almost 5 per cent of new solicitors in 2014 were over 40

The Independent reports that the legal profession is opening its doors to mature career-switchers with nearly 5% of newly enrolled solicitors being over 40. In other interesting figures in the 2014 annual statistics report from The Law Society, 48% of practising solicitors are women while representation of black, Asian and minority ethnic groups is now at 15%, more than double the 2000 level.

Advice for young lawyers seeking good jobs!

Seven Sins of the Law Firm Interview comes from National Accident Helpline and provides advice for law firm applicants. There is advice on avoiding a muddled CV, tryng not to leave a trail of indiscreet social media, what to wear for an interview, the benefits of researching the firm involved, and avoiding cliches like "I love the law". Whilst written with humour, there is good advice here.

There is also good advice for how to survive the law degree including how to use social media to find required law books cheaply, making useful contacts during the degree, spreading out revision (insead of trying to do it all at once) and volunteering for useful projects (which will look good on the eventual CV).

The Law Society has compiled a pro bono toolkit for law firms

The Law Society actively promotes Pro Bono work and it has now compiled a Solicitors' pro bono toolkit to support and encourage the provision of Pro Bono legal services in a more organised, and consistent, way than in the past. This should help firms manage the level of their pro bono commitment, track it, record it and (ultimately) help them to meet the needs of their local communities. The tool kit includes facts and statistics about pro bono work, a set of protocols to ensure a consistent approach, general advice, top tips, case studies and contact information for further assistance. The Law Society provides an annual Pro Bono Excellence award. The 14th annual National Pro Bono Week (NPBW), sponsored by the Law Society, the Bar Council and the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx), is currently taking place and the toolkit is a manifestation of the Law Society's commitment to the concept.

LexisNexis Enterprise Solutions has opened a new "Centre of Excellence" in Leeds

LexisNexis Enterprise Solutions has opened a new Software Centre of Excellence in Leeds. This new R&D facility will be the UK hub of product development for its key products:
* LexisOne, enterprise resource planning solution for law firms and
* Lexis Visualfiles, legal workflow and case management system
as well as other related software products. The company has also appointed David Espley as the UK Technology Director where he will join Andy Sparkes, General Manager. The Centre of Excellence will accommodate the 50 percent growth in staff this year planned for these products, serve as the company's European customer support hub and still have capacity for future growth. See more on the LexisNexis site here.

The International Federation of Computer Law Associations (IFCLA) announce June 2016 dates

IFCLA Conference 2016 is to be held on 9th and 10th June at the Institution of Engineering and Technology, Savoy Place, London. The event is to be hosted and organised by the Society for Computers and Law (SCL). As the IFCLA site says "IT law is global. IT lawyers, almost uniquely, have to master local law and yet look beyond their borders. Whether your focus is on outsourcing, the Internet, apps, cryptocurrencies, data protection, Big Data, the Internet of Things, gaming or any of the myriad of other fields affected by IT law, compliance in one jurisdiction gives no security – you have to think globally." The IFCLA was founded in December 1986 at an international meeting in Brussels and so the meeting next year will be in its 20th anniversary year.

Happy Birthday to the UK Human Rights Blog - 5 years of dedicated work

UK Human Rights Blog from 1 Crown Office Row has been going for (just over) 5 years and there have been 2,245 posts, 4.7 million hits, 6,258 comments and over 13,000 email subscribers (many more on Facebook and Twitter). The cases are taken from domestic courts and the Strasbourg court involving human rights points that demonstrate the impact of the European Convention on domestic law and the blog also explores the practical impact of these cases for practitioners. The UKHRB has become a key source of human rights information in the UK and also across the world. Particular thanks to Adam Wagner (who started it) and also to Angus McCullough QC, Rosalind English, David Hart QC and Martin Downs.

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

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